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Charles Seeger 

Interviewed "by Adelaide G. Tusler and Ann M. Briegleb 

Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 

Copyright © 1972 
The Regents of the University of California 

This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes onlyo All literary rights in the manuscript,, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California at 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California 
at Los Angeles. 


Illustrations ix 

Introduction x 

Interview History xv 

TAPE ITUMBER: I, Side One (September 15, I966). . . . 1 

Family background - -Father ' s business--Mexico 
City — Staten Island--Family life--Music influ- 
ences--Reading matter--New York City--Return 
to Mexico City--The Mexican countryside--Board- 
ing school--Entering Harvard--Harvard Music De- 
partment--Mother' s background--Seeger snobbery 

TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (September 15, I966). . . .3I 

Harvard--Brother, Alan Seeger 

[Second Part] (September 22, I966). ... 32 

Close friends--Stylus club--Music courses — 

Interest in modern music--Composition--Con- 
certs--Debussy--Elected to Signet Society — 
Decision to go abroad--Honors in music-- 
Childhood recollect ions --Religion 

TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (October 5, I966) 63 

Arriving in Europe — Munich — Berlin--Appren- 
ticeship with Cologne Municipal Opera--Travels 
with Foote and Wheelock--Paris with Ned Sheldcn-- 
Return to New York--First songs sold--Meeting 
first wife, Constance Edson--Her family back- 
ground--Invitation to teach at the University 
of California--Full professorship--3irth of 
first son 

TAPE NUT'iBER: II, Side Two (October I3, I966). ... 92 

Department of Music at Berkeley--Planning the 
summer session, 1913--History of Music course-- 
Folksong session--University Recitals--Student 
Henry Cowell--Lessons and compositions--First 
musicology course--Dissonance as discipline in 
counterpoint--Building a music library--Visiting 
migratory v;orkers- -Humanism replaces laissez- 
faire snobbery 


TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (October 20, I966). . . 120 

World War I — The Radical Club — IWW marches — 
Conflict with Professor William D. Armes-- 
Faculty friends — House on La Loma Avenue — 
Ostracism by university colleagues — Travel- 
ing in California--Trip East--Lectures at 
Harvard--Relation of music to society--Build- 
ing a trailer — Traveling musicians 

TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (October 27, I966). . . 1^9 

Conscientious objector — Circumstances of 
leaving Berkeley--Interest in musicology-- 
Wintering in Pinehurst, North Carolina — 
Macdonald clan--Institute of Musical Art, 
New York--Ashram in Nyack--Scarsdale gather- 
ings at Blanche Walton 's--Carl Ruggles--Ruth 
Crawford — Teaching at the instltute--Mrs. 
Walton's parties 

TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (November 3, 19^6) . . . .179 

Institute of Musical Art--The Damrosches--The 
Depression and student reaction — New School 
for Social Research--Starting a rausicologi- 
cal society — American attitudes towards m.usi- 
cians--Nyack yogi colony--Dr. Pierre Bernard-- 
Growth of musical ideas — Divorce, and marriage 
to Ruth Crawford--Financial problems at New 
School--Painter Thomas Benton 

TAPE NUMBER: IV", Side Two (November 10, I966). . . 207 

Henry Cowell at the Institute--Composers ' Col- 
lective--Marxism in the Depress ion--Workers' 
Song Book --"Aunt" Molly Jackson--May Day song 
compe tit ion- -Aaron Copland--New York Musicolo- 
gical Society--American Musicological Society-- 
American Library of Musicology--Erich von Horn- 
bostel arrives in America — Forming the American 
Society for Comparative Musicology 

TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (November 10, 1966). . . .235 

Berlin Gesellschaft collapses 

[Second Part] (November 17, I966) 236 

Phonogramm-Archiv — Resettlement Administra- 
tion — John and Alan Lomax--Collecting folk- 
songs--Sidney Robertson Cowell--Margaret 
Valiant in Cherrylake--Idealism and intrusion 
of politics--Marc Blitzstein — WPA Music Project 

TAPE ITOMBER: V, Side Two (November 17, I966 ) . . . .263 

Folk music at the White House — Problems in the 
WPA music program--Folk Arts Committee--Flrst 
International Congress of Music ology-- Army- 
Song Book 

[Second Part] (December 1, I966) 279 

Merging of emergency agencies — Decline of 
the Music Project--Department of Agriculture-- 
WPA and Resettlement Administration contrasted-- 
Importance of folklore and mores--Attacks on 
New Deal programs 

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (December 1, I966). . . .294 

Pan-American Union--Music Division setup-- 
Vanett Lawler--Contracting Latin-American 
composers for publication--Latin-American 
tours for North American musicians--Creating 
interest in Latin-American music--Vanett 
Lawler's trip to South America--Economics 
and Pan-American relations--UNESCO changes 
picture at Pan-American Union 

TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (December 5, I966). . . .324 

Ms. Lawler's cleverness--UNESCO--Julian 
Huxley's music program — International Music 
Council--Conflicts and personalities--French 
dominance of Council--Decline of the Pan- 
American Union program--Resignation--Problems 
of the International Music Council--Sstablish- 
ment of the Inter-American Music Council 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (December 8, I966). . . 35^ 

American Musicological Society--Presidency, 
constitution, and journal--Committee on Musi- 
cology, American Council of Learned Societies-- 


TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One [cont'd] 

Encyclopedia of music project — Library of Con- 
gress lecture--Papers, articles, and projects-- 
Journal of Ethnomusicology — Society for Ethno- 
musicology--Term as president 

TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two (December 12, I966). . .379 

Seeger-Dickinson-Haydon triumvirate- -American 
Musicological Society--"The Colleagues"--So- 
ciety for Ethnomusicology--Anthropology and 
music--Field of ethnomusicology — Approaches 
to ethnomusicology--Western and non-Western 
music--UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology-- 
Theory and performance in ethnomusicology-- 
American Folklore Society 

TAPE ITOMBER: VIII, Side One (June I9, 1970). . . . 407 

Thoughts on oral history--Communication 
and philosophy--Connecting music with so- 
ciety — Mantle Hood and ethnomusicology-- 
Appointment to UCLA--The Melograph--Klaus 
Wachsmann — Seminars and reading Iist3--Alan 

TAPE NU^SER: VIII, Side Two (June I9, 1970). . . . ^Zf 

The Melograph--Victor C. Anderson--Melograph 
Models A, B, C--Problems of the Model C--Plans 
for Model D--Preparation of Systematic Musi - 
co logy - -Theoretical and practical approaches 
at Institute--Epochs of history of ethnom^usi- 
cology--Importance of musical knowledge 

TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side One (June I8, 1971) 449 

Society for Ethnomusicology: criticisms of 
1970 Seattle meeting--Other organizations-- 
Role as father--Seeger children--Offering 
musical inf luence--Model C Melograph--InflU'- 
ence on children--Peggy and Michael--Reaching 
children--Music in American society--Compo- 
sers' Collective — Music and Communism 

TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two (June I8, 1971) 474 

Composers' Collective--" Aunt" Molly Jackson-- 
May Day song competition--The Depression-- 


TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two [cont'd] 

Reassessing the performing arts--Future 
of the Society for Ethnomusicology-- 
Plans after leaving UCLA 

Index 497 



Photograph of Charles Seeger frontispiece 

Seeger with his Model B. Melograph. , . .following p. 431 

[Photographs are from the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive] 



Charles Louis Seeger was born in Mexico City, D.F., 
Mexico on December 14, 1886, son of Charles Louis Seeger 
and Elsie Simmons Adams. At the age of six months his 
parents moved to New York where he was raised in the rural 
atmosphere of Staten Island (still possible in those days), 
with a younger brother and sister. Piano lessons began 
at the age of seven, but after experiencing disappointment 
in the "bad" quality of music he was required to learn 
from his teachers, he began instead to imitate and play 
duets with his father, a self-taught pianist, and to teach 

His family returned to live in Mexico City in I9OO 
and although he was sent to boarding school in Tarrytovrn, 
New York (1902) and to Harvard College (1904), the summers 
spent with his family in Mexico were an influential and 
enjoyable experience of his teenage years. After college 
graduation he spent two and a half years studying abroad, 
in Munich, Berlin, and Cologne, expanding his composition- 
al interests. 

In 1911 he returned to the United States and, shortly 
after, occupied a new position as full professor of music 
at the University of California at Berkeley. Courses in 
harmony resulted in the joint authorship of a text with 


the course's reader, Edward Stricklen, Harmonic Structure 
and Elementary Composition (I916). Henry Cowell became 
a private composition student of Seeger's at Berkeley 
at the age of fifteen. Probably the first course In 
musicology to be given In the United States was Seeger's 
Introduction to Musicology, which provided him with a 
new avenue of professional Interest. 

In 1921 Seeger shifted his base of operations to 
New York City where he began teaching at the Institute 
of Musical Art (until 1935) and was able to renew his 
friendship with Cowell as well as make new friends of 
such composers as Carl Ruggles, Marc Blltzsteln, and Aaron 
Copland. The first course In general musicianship to be 
given In the United States was initiated by Seeger at 
the Institute. In 1931 he began teaching, with Henry 
Cowell, a course in Musical Cultures of the World at 
the New School for Social Research. At Seeger's- sugges- 
tion, Erich von Hornbostel was brought in to teach at the 
New School in 1933, after his departure from turbulent 
Germany and only shortly before his death. 

In 193^ the focus of Seeger's career again changed — 
this time to Washington, D.C. As a technical advisor in 
the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration (until 1938), he participated in his first field 


recording experiences, collecting from the Inhabitants 
of resettlement towns. From 1938-40 he was assistant 
director of the Federal Music Project. In 1941 he was 
appointed to one of the most important jobs in his career, 
as chief of the Music Division of the Pan-American Union. 
There was a notable increase in the exchange of musicians 
between Latin America and the United States as well as 
an exchange in the performance of compositions. The year 
1953 marked his resignation. 

In 1961 he accepted an invitation to be Regent's 
Professor and in I962 research musicologist at the UCLA 
Institute of Ethnomusicology, working with both students 
and faculty on various projects, particularly as they 
related to the Seeger invention, the Melograph. During 
this time he also served as research associate for the 
UCLA Center for Folklore and Mythology. In June 1971, 
he "retired" at the age of 85 and is now living in Bridge- 
water, Connecticut. 

Seeger married three times: first, to Constance de 
Clyver Edson (I9II-3O); second, to Ruth Porter Crawford 
(1931-53); and Margaret Adams Smith (1955-60). He fathered 
seven children: three by his first wife--Charles, John, 
and Peter; and four by his second wife--Michael, Margaret, 
Barbara, and Penelope. 


Seeger has been instrumental in the founding of 
numerous scholarly societies^ notably the New York Mu- 
sicological Society, the American Musicological Society 
(1945-46 as president) J the American Society for Com- 
parative Musicology, and the Society for Ethnomusicology 
(1960-62 as president). He served as chairman of the 
Committee on Musicology of the American Council for 
Learned Societies (1950-52) and is a Fellow of the 
American Folklore Society. 

His publications are too numerous to mention here.* 
Biographies can be found in Baker' s Biographical Dictionary 
and Grove ' s Dictionary of Music and Musicians . The 
Seeger Melograph, completed to this date up to Model C, 
has been an indescribable aid to the analysis of music. 

In the following pages, which consist of tape re- 
corded interviews made with the UCLA Oral History Pro- 
gram in 1966 (Ms. Adelaide Tusler) and in I97O-7I 
(Ms. Ann Briegleb), he recalls the significant events 
of his life and his philosophy of life in a revealing 
self-analytic style that adds up to that unique per- 
sonality, Charles Louis Seeger. 

These recollections are part of the Program's 

* see , ''Charles Seeger: Selective Bibliography, 1923- 
1966," Inter - American Institute for Musical Re - 
search, vol. II (1900), pp. 37-42. 


Fine Arts series. Records relating to this interview 
are located in the office of the UCLA Oral History Pro- 

Ann M. Briegleb 

Los Angeles, California 
June, 1972 



INTERVIEWERS: Adelaide Tusler, Interviewer-Editor, UCLA 
Oral History Program. B.A. , Music, UCLA; M.L.S., UCLA. 

Ann M. Eriegleb, Ethnomusicology Librarian and Archi- 
vist, UCLA. B.A., Music, UCLA; M.L.S. UCLA. 


Place : The Seeger-Tusler interview series took place 
at Professor Seeger's residence, 15230 Earlham, Pacific 
Palisades, California. The Seeger-Briegleb interviev/s 
were held in her office. Institute of Ethnomusicology, 
Schoenberg Hall, UCLA. 

Dates : (Tusler) September 15-December 12, 1966; 
(Briegleb) June 19, 1970; June 18, 1971. 

Time of day , length of sessions , total number of record - 
ing hours : Recording sessions were conducted for the 
most part in the afternoons. One hour was usually re- 
corded at each session which lasted approximately two 
and one-half hours. This manuscript represents approx- 
imately seventeen hours of recording time. 

Persons present during interview : Seeger and Tusler; 
Seeger and Briegleb. 


During the Tusler interviews, all questions to be 
covered at each session were introduced at the be- 
ginning because of the respondent's extreme hearing 
difficulty. The interviewer reviewed each previous 
session before the start of the next and would ask 
clarifying questions. Seeger would then answer these 
questions and proceed with the narrati /e. 

After completion of the Tusler series, the tapes were 
transcribed, and the transcript was edited and sub- 
mitted to the respondent for review. Since a number 
of significant developments had occurred in the 
career of the respondent after the conclusion of the 
first series, two additional sessions were scheduled. 

As Ms. Tusler had left the Program, Ms. Briegleb 
agreed to conduct the supplementary interviews. 


After reviewing the transcript of the Tusler sessions, 
Ms. Briegleb picked up certain themes where the Tusler 
series left off, including the respondent's activities 
connected with the UCLA Institute of Ethnotnusicology, 
his experiences in developing his invention, the Melo- 
graph, and his participation in the Society for Ethno- 


The editing of the Tusler series was done by the in- 
terviewer. The Briegleb series was edited by Bernard 
Galm, Senior Editor, UCLA Oral History Program, and 
was also reviewed by the interviewer. Editing was 
done primarily to obtain correct spelling and punctua- 
tion and to introduce paragraphing. The verbatim 
transcript v;as checked against the original tape 
recordings, and the material was retained in the 
order that it was spoken during the interview sessions 
The editors verified proper names wherever it was 

The respondent reviewed the edited transcript of the 
Tusler series, verifying those proper names the edi- 
tor was unable to verify. He made only slight cor- 
rections. The respondent did not review the tran- 
script of the Briegleb series as he had already left 
the area. However, a list of names and areas in 
question was submitted to Seeger for his verifica- 

The introduction was written by Ann Briegleb and the 
remaining front matter was prepared by the Program's 

The index was prepared by Joel Gardner, Assistant 
Editor, UCLA Oral History Program. 


The original tape recordings and edited transcript 
of the interview are in the University Archives and 
are available under the regulations governing the 
use of noncurrent records of the University. 


SEPTEMBER 15, 1966 

TUSLER: Dr. Seeger, for our first session today, would 
you like to start by giving some of the basic data about 
where and when you were born, some of your family back- 

SEEGER: I was born on December l4, 1886 in a little 
house on the Calle de Buena Vista in Mexico City. My 
father was the son of a doctor and had been brought up 
in Springfield, Massachusetts. His grandfather was a 
doctor and had the same name as my father and rayself-- 
Charles Louis Seeger, as it's translated into English, 
or Karl Ludwig Seeger, as it was brought to the United 
States by old Dr. Seeger in the 1780's. 

There was a strong tradition of "family." I^Jlnen I 
was a child, German education, German intellectual life, 
German music, German philosophy, literature and poetry, 
were very highly regarded, so that the feeling of having 
been part of a line of four Charles Seegers always figured 
rather strongly in my life. Old Dr. Seeger, who came 
here shortly after the American Revolution, came from a 
modest family in southern Germany. He had the advantage 
of schooling at the famous Karlschule, run by the auto- 
cratic Duke Karl Eugen of Wurttemberg at Stuttgart. Dr. 

Seeger was a contemporary of Schiller who ran away from 
the school with the text of Die Raiiber in his satchel. 
The school was for the children of the courtiers and re- 
tainers of the Duke, and the principal was a certain 
Georg von Seeger- I suppose my modest great-grandfather 
got into che school because he was some kind of relation 
to the director--a von Seeger. At any rate, the legend 
in the family was that we were descended from a knight 
who took part in one of the Crusades. These genealogies 
were really quite fancy. The name of the old kjiight v;as 
given as Gehardns von Seeg. And then there are five 
hundred years before another Seeger ( 1558-l664[? ] ) was 
mentioned, [laughter] What happened in those five hun- 
dred years might be almost anybody's guess. 

At any rate, my father, brought up in Springfield, 
Massachusetts, his father dying when he was fairly young 
and his mother being left with only a small income, had 
to make his own way from the time he was sixteen. He 
graduated at the top of his class in high school. Some 
wealthy men came to his mother and said they thought he 
had great promise and would be glad to send him through 
Harvard College and the Law School. His mother drew her- 
self up very proudly and said, "Seegers do not accept 

So my father went to work in a bank. And as he 

watched the other men in the bank and more or less thought 
out what would be the possibilities of advancement, he 
realized that he would have to stay there until he was 
about fifty, when everybody else had died off, and then 
he could be president. [laughter] This didn't appeal 
to him, so that after he became engaged to my mother, 
that is, when he v;as about twenty-three, he decided he 
would strike out for himself. 

Being somewhat romantically inclined, he chose 
Mexico City. He went down there and he started in, 
partly in newspaper work and in railroad [work] and other 
things he could find; and he wound up three years later 
having founded the Seeger and Guernsey Company, an ex- 
porting and importing company betv;een the United States 
and Mexico. So, after he v/as married to my mother, they 
went to Mexico City and I was born, as I say, in the 
little house on Calle de Buena Vista, which is now razed 
and the whole street's been changed in its shape. 

The arrangement was that my father's partner, 
Guernsey, would handle the Mexican end of things, and 
Father would take my mother and me to Nev/ York and handle 
the Ne^/r York end. So this was done, and I left Mexico at 
the age of six m.onths. I've often thought that the 
descent from the nearly eight thousand feet altitude of 
Mexico City to sea level by train overnight might have 

been the cause of my later deafness. 

I had a very healthy childhood. Father moved from 
New York City, where my brother Alan was born, in I888 
or 1889;, "to Staten Island where he rented a nice old 
house. My sister was born there three years after my 
birth. The ridge on Staten Island had a few of the old 
houses still standing on it, but it was mostly cut up 
into small city lots. Our lot was about four acres. We 
had a barn and a chicken yard and about an acre of vege- 
table garden, fruit trees, and berries j one or two cows, 
one or two horses depending upon need; we even gathered 
hay for feeding the horses and cows. It was an idyllic 
childhood. Father had a conviction that when he re- 
turned from business, business was out of sight and he 
would live with his family. Mother took care of us dur- 
ing the day with the aid of three or four servants. 

Everything went very smoothly until I was put into 
nursery school, or kindergarten as they called it in 
those days. I was flabbergasted by the experience, com- 
pletely tongue-tied. They couldn't get a word out of 
me till finally at the end of one day, when I'd said 
nothing and there was a silence, I came out with the 
statement, "I have a very fine father in my house." 

Mother and Father were deeply in love with each 

other and impressed on all of us children the overriding 
value of love. Apparently, love between people was a 
very real thing. There was a strange kind of a shadow 
or projection of it which was called God. All of us 
had very hazy ideas of what was meant by God . At one 
time my brother^, who was in the habit of asking embar- 
rassing questions, approached my mother and said, "Mother, 
I know all about religion; now tell me something about 
God." Well, Mother having been brought up, and Father 
too, as Unitarians-- that is, belonging to a church that 
was a kind of glorified lecture bureau, had the vaguest 
idea of what they meant by God. In fact, neither Z«iother 
or Father could give you the slightest idea of what un- 
der the sun God was, unless it was love. 

The atmosphere was very close in the family, and 
until we went to school there were no contacts outside. 
Visitors would come to the house and the children were, 
of course, always involved. 

When I finally went to school there v;as quite a 
break in my life 3 from then on I remember things very 
well. I ca.n go back to my third year for a famous Christ- 
mas when my sister was born, and I remember her as a lit- 
tle pink rosebud in the arms of my mother, who I thought 
was the most beautiful woman in the world. And [I re- 
member] my getting a little train of wooden cars, railroad 

cars, for Christmas. 

Before that, my only memory is of a nightmare. 
This nightmare has always taken a very important place 
in my life. It must have been some time when I was 
very young. My mother and father, brought up as they 
were in New England and having lived most of their lives 
in small cities like Springfield, Massachusetts (my 
mother was brought up part of her teenage years in 
Cincinnati, Ohio), did not have anything like a world 
outlook. It was quite provincial, quite restricted to 
the personalities of their friends and the books they 
read, v/hich were mostly novels. For some unknown rea- 
son. Father became interested in astronomy when I was 
very little. I remember him once, walking through the 
hall with his hands flung above his head, saying, "Oh, 
Elsie, astronomy, astronomy! " They had some books on 
astronomy, and binoculars, and they used to look at the 
heavens through these binoculars and try to learn some- 
thing about the planets and the stars. This impressed 
me enormously, and when they told me about these huge 
bodies tearing through space and sometimes colliding, 
and these fiery planets, it made a very deep impression 
on me, such a deep impression that I used to have a 
nightm.are. It came several times, and this was the 
nightmare: there was a beautiful blue sky with great 

pink and peach-colored orbs in it, and it was my ter- 
rible responsibility to keep them from collision or 
destruction in some way, with my own hands. I would 
wake up screaming because I couldn't keep them from 
colliding. The meaning of this in my own thinking and 
feeling was never clear to me until I read my first 
Freud, which was much later in Berkeley, California 
when I was already twenty-six. Then suddenly I realized 
I had been a breast-fed baby for a full nine months, and 
the meaning of the situation immediately became per- 
fectly clear. 

Now, the significance of this dream is that from 
a very early age my mind was turned outward into cosmo- 
logical speculations and cosmological emotions. They 
were almost entirely individual for the first, oh, six- 
teen or seventeen or eighteen years of m.y life. I was 
unaware that anybody else had this desire to speculate 
on the relations of the largest things to the smallest 
things, as I did. I felt that I was very unusual in 
that respect and felt a little bit perhaps apart from 
the rest of my family and my friends, because these 
things occupied a lot of my thinking and daydreaming 
time. The astronomy enthusiasm of my parents faded away 
presently into other things, but v;ith me it stayed on. 

VJhat other things I should say of this early childhood 

in connection with this particular story is something 
of a problem for me at this moment. Father was definite- 
ly of an Intellectual type, hut he never had intellec- 
tual training. He was an all-around artistic personality. 
He could sketch very well. He played the piano and the 
organ. He composed some pretty little songs that I 
used to sing when I was a small child. He could write 
a very respectable sonnet. He could even write poetry 
in French_, and he was very adept at languages. He read 
a great deal and was one of the most expert spellers 
that I ever knew--you couldn't stump him. 

My mother was exactly the opposite. If you had a 
letter from her it had no punctuation, no sentence for- 
mation, no paragraphs, no capitals except in strange 
places--and the spelling was something unbelievable. 
The combination of this almost completely uneducated 
mother, and a father who was born to go through the full 
academic routine and emerge with a Ph.D., was quite 
fascinating. He was very patient with her and made her 
laugh at her own mistakes, but nothing could shake her. 
Her own way of talking and writing was her own way- -until 
the children grew up; and when the children grew up and 
began to spell properly and make sentences hang together 
and paragraphs that were paragraphs, she [laughter] be- 
came conscience-stricken, went to school with herself. 


so to speak, and improved her writing very much, as a 
little autobiography that she wrote later attests. It's 
quite a charming piece of literary style, although not 
what you'd call an educated literary style. 
TUSLER: May I ask you what her name was and something 
about her background? 

SEEGER: My mother's name was Elsie Simmons Adams. 
Simmonses, and Adamses, and Robinsons and Parsons and 
Homans and Thwings and Simpsons and Lincolns and Fosdicks 
and Fosters, and finally Elder Brewster, who came over 
in the Mayflower , make up her genealogical table. On 
my father's side, there are an equal number of Parsons, 
Whites, Pomeroys, Ashleys, Clarks, Kings, and others, 
but so far as we know, they don't go back quite to the 
Mayflower era. Mother was Bostonian practically entire- 
ly, and very Bostonian. Father was mixed, the Bostonian 
end of Springfield, plus the quarter German. 

Now, let's see, where did I get off on the genealogi- 
cal end of things? 

TUSLER: You were speaking about your mother and the 
autobiography that she wrote. 

SEEGER: Oh, yes. Evenings were practically always spent 
with the mother and the father. Both my sister, three 
years younger, and my brother, a year and a half younger, 
were very bright children, and I think if we were to rank 

the three of us according to ordinary scholastic stan- 
dards they would have been about on my age level, al- 
though they were younger than I. Both of them took to 
schooling--! didn't. 
TUSLER: Why was that? 

SEEGER: I don't really know why. I think it's because 
I was naturally rebellious and my bent was to music. I 
did not like to read. I was able to pass my examinations 
with very little trouble, and therefore I did practically 
no studying. I'd just leave it to the last m.inute, look 
over the books and squeeze by, sometimes with a fairly 
high mark, I'm ashamed to say. But my brother and sis- 
ter went into schooling very seriously and got nothing 
but the highest grades. I got an occasional A, some 
3's or C's, and didn't give a hang. 

In one of the early days in school, they told us 
we were going to be able to study music. This was in 
the third grade and I was delighted--now I'd have a 
chance to study music. They gave us a book. I remember 
we sang the songs that were in the book with the teacher's 
help, and I said to the teacher, "But this is not good 
music." I've forgotten what kind of an argument followed, 
but I refused to ever sing again out of the book [laugh- 
ter] and, of course, got away with it. 

Things went along that way. I was perhaps the 


intellectual laggard, after my father, my brother and 
my sister, I could always shut their mouths by going 
to the piano and they liked that very much and, of course, 
I liked that. And so I kept my status. When I was about 
seven. Mother and Father decided that I should have pi- 
ano lessons, so they brought in a little piano teacher 
and she gave me some finger exercises and some little 

But here again I said, "But this isn't good music, 
scales aren't music." I refused to play them. 

So she disappeared, and a so-called better teacher 
came in--and the same thing happened. She finally per- 
suaded me to play a piece called The Trumpeter' s Serenade 
by some imitator of Haydn; I thought it was an awful 
piece but I did want to please my father, so I played it. 
But I finally decided that I never would play it again, 
so she was sent off and no more efforts were made. 

My father played the piano in an only semi-taught 
way; he was very enthusiastic about Wagner's operas which 
had just been published in piano arrangement, so almost 
every night I remember going to sleep hearing the strains 
of The Ring and Tristan coming up from below. I used to 
have horrible earaches which they never did anything 
about except to pour laudanum in my ear and give me a hot 


water bag. These led to headaches, so that I would be 
in perfect agony in ray bed and beg my father just to 
play more Wagner and then I could go to sleep, which I 
always did by the time he stopped playing. So I had a 
feeling of what music was. He also played very charming 
Mexican popular music, the danzas of those days, pieces 
that he had the music for, some of them, and also some 
that he had heard a band play and would come home and 
play by ear. Presently I was playing them by ear also. 
I did a certain amount of pretending at composition, 
but didn't take it too seriously. 

Things floated along musically until I was about 
twelve. I could play a little bit better and a little 
bit better just by myself, when my father bought some 
simple duets--Haydn, Mozart, Schubert--and then my music 
education really began. Every night I would wait for him 
to come home so that we could play a duet. We counted 
furiously, one, two, three, four, [laughter] one, two, 
three, four, 30 as to keep together, and the rest of the 
family would chime in sometimes, counting, just to make 
fun of us. [laughter] 

The general atmosphere was of a very tightly knit 
family in which example was the main v/ay of teaching. 
You did what Father did, or the daughter did what Mother 
did. People who did anything else were not doing the 


right thing. There was no undue family pride, but the 
general feeling was that the world was composed of three 
classes of people: the Seegers, the friends of the See- 
gers, and the rest of the world. It was virtually a 
hierarchy of nobility. Neither Mother or Father ever 
defined this patented nobility in what you would call 
practical terms and would have been the first to deny 
it. It had nothing to do with wealth, nothing to do 
with what was called "the Four Hundred" in New York at 
that time or with what we would novr call socialite dis- 
tinction. It was a nobility that was completely founded 
on a certain moral-intellectual-emotional integrity. 
There were simply things that Seegers did not do; there 
were things that other people could do and the Seegers 
would tolerate them, and things that other people could 
do that the Seegers did not tolerate and did not approve 
of. It wasn't codified in any sense like that, but it 
was simply a matter of example. 

The example had in it the ingredient of free will. 
I remember one time (the gang always met in our barn and 
in fair weather spread out all over the place), and one 
day, ray mother leaned out of the second- story window and 
said to our friends the Parmelee boys, "You boys go home 
and don't you ever come on our place again. We don't 
allow such language." I've forgotten what the language 


was; it was mild, nothing like the four-letter words 
which we're nov; so accustomed to, unless perhaps there 
might be a darn in it, or maybe a damn; but I don't 
remember it. We decided that that was unjust. 

So the next day we met at the Parmelees' house, and 
the next day after that at the Parmelees' house. Mother 
saw she had made a mistake, and she fixed it up with Mr. 
and Mrs. Parmelee so that their boys were allowed to 
come back on the place. [laughter] 

The general reading matter of children in those 
days was, of course, fairy tales, and we were chuck full 
of fairy tales. Of course, the fairy tales of those 
days more or less deified women unless they were witches; 
and men were of various kinds. This morality extended 
itself to our relations with all outside. For my sister, 
I suppose, all men were shining knights in armor, or at 
least fairy princes on horses that could fly through the 
sky. For the boys, women were angels. This attitude 
colored our relationship v/itb the girls in our classes, 
which was one of utmost reverence and chivalry. 

The boys were called by the nicknames of their "girl," 
and the girls were called by the name of their "boy." 
I remember my brother was very faithful to a girl two 
classes ahead of him, Adeline Trask. She was called 
Addie and she had a steady friend v7ho v;as called Addie, 


and my brother was called "Little Addle." I didn't like 
this very much. I felt it was an intrusion on my pri- 
vacy, so I refused to divulge the name of my flame, Nina 
Perry. Therefore my nickname became "Nobody." My sis- 
ter got around the same compunction by changing her flame 
so often that people gave up. When anyone dared call 
her by the name of any of her supposed boyfriends, she 
said, "Oh, no, that's old. That was yesterday. Today 
it's different." They said, "Who is he?" "I won't tell." 
Well, it would be found out, or she'd name somebody; I 
remember one day she named a boy that we all thought was 
a perfect dumb-head. [laughter] I think now, come to 
think of it, that's why we stopped calling her by the 
boy' s name . 

At any rate, this sort of thing went on and on and 
the relationships were very, very distant. One went to 
dancing school and one had to hold one's girl's hand and 
tentatively put one's right hand around her waist. It 
was a rather embarrassing and not very interesting disci- 
pline which we really didn't take to. 

The main thing that I take from my childhood on 
Staten Island in the way of things which influenced my 
later life were the evenings with the family when we 
would play games, sometimes card games, sometimes other 


games like lotto and dominoes , but increasingly anagrams ^ 
which increased our vocabulary and helped us with our 
spelling. Then, of course, there were the duets on the 
piano and a little play that my mother put on once in 
which V7e acted out French folksongs. Sur le Pont d ' Avig - 
non was an actual plank laid across two boxes with a 
blue silk river running underneath with some fresh smelts 
on it. That tight family life endured until the family 
was broken up later on by the children going off to 
boarding school. It led to an increased amount of read- 

I should say something about moving away from Staten 
Island. The family realized that Staten Island was a 
suburb, that the school was a suburban schoolj while it 
was a good school it wasn't an especially good one, and 
Father wanted his children to have the best schooling 
available. So we moved to an apartment in New York, 
58th Street and 7th Avenue, to be near the park for af- 
ternoon exercise. My sister went down to the Brearly 
School on 44th Street, and my brother and I went to the 
Horace Mann School up near Columbia, which was very high- 
ly admired in those days, and later to the Cutler School 
between 5th and Madison Avenues on 50th Street. 

In those two years, moving to a new place, meeting 
city children for the first time, not being able to run 


loose around a four-acre yard, and being somewhat con- 
strained in Central Park forced the family to consoli- 
date still more. We started a family magazine to which 
we each contributed, and named it after the large reli- 
gious painting which my father had brought from Mexico 
of some saint. I've forgotten what saint it was now, 
but at any rate, we called it The Prophet . It came out 
every month and we all took part in it. Father editing 
it and reading it at a gathering on a Sunday afternoon. 

Father began to have business troubles. He couldn't 
collect money that was owed him in Mexico and his credi- 
tors began to crowd him in New York. Finally he went 
to Mexico to try to collect a debt for installation of 
a large sugar factory in the temperate clime of Mexico. 
He went, and was driven by stagecoach for two days and 
received by the debtor with open arms in his magnificent 
rancho, hacienda as they called it in Mexico; and after 
a good dinner, and leaving the ladies, they would settle 
down to talk business. 

Father approached the matter of the debt, and the 
debtor said, "You know, Senor Seeger, I like you very 
much. I think you're a splendid person, but I'm not going 
to pay." 

So Father said, "Then, of course, I'll have to go 

to law." 


He said, "Don't do it. You'll just waste your 

And Father said, "Why?" 

"One of my brothers is governor of the state. My 
cousin is judge of the Supreme Court; all lawyers are 
in my pay. You couldn't get to first base." 

They started bankruptcy proceedings on him before 
he could get back. It was very simple. He stood up be- 
fore the judge and said, "My debts are such and such. 
I agree to pay them all back with Interest and nobody 
need worry." 

His creditors trusted him and he started off again. 
By this time, his partner in Mexico had more or less 
gotten the firm into this trouble. So Father took over 
the Mexican end and gave up the New York end. We moved 
into a small apartment in Mexico City, but v/ith a pri- 
vate tutor and enough servants. Father kept up his im- 
porting business, supplying sugar machinery, the small 
railroads, tracks and engines and cars, that had to haul 
the cane to the sugar mills, and began to import automo- 
biles from France, Germany, England, Italy and the United 
States. Within two years we were back to our accustomed 
way of living and bought a beautiful house. I remember 
my mother's first automobile. It was an open Victoria 
type with a high front seat like the old coachmen's, and 


she fitted [the chauffeur] out with a top hat, as coach- 
men v/ere fitted out in those days. We finally laughed 
her out of it and Father got him a chauffeur's cap. 

The first tutor did an excellent job with us--he 
made us like to study. By this time our evenings with 
my father had reached the reading of poetry, and for the 
first time I began to read books. The poetry was Shelley, 
Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge and the other romantic poets j 
and finally on back to the Cavalier poets and to Shakes- 
peare, Chaucer, Spenser; and then finally to the Euro- 
pean poets, at that time always in translation; so that 
intellectual life really began at that time v/hen I was 
fourteen to sixteen, in Mexico. The fairy tales led 
right into Keats and Shelley. 

The Mexican country and our exploi-ations into it 
were identified with Shelley's poetry, and the whole 
atmosphere was raised to a level of intense excitement-- 
intellectual, emotional and artistic . Expeditions were 
made into the country to see the old churches and old 
buildings which we all sketched and took photographs of. 
We would go down to the thieves' market and buy antiques 
of various kinds, always hoping to find a first printing 
of Don Quixote , for instance, which we never did, although 
I believe one was found in the thieves' market. We found. 


however, many old books. Then it turned out that my 
father had a very xirarm friend in an old Catholic priest 
who was called Padre Marin^ who had a large library of 
old books . Padre Marin was becoming ill and old and he 
was willing to sell some of these books. So of a Sunday 
afternoon we would all go over to Padre Marin's, and we 
would take our pocket money to buy books. Each one of 
us children had a collection of Elzevirs, especially 
the Little Republic series, about three and a half inches 
high, and that led us into studying the history of print- 
ing and learning about the great printers of early days. 
So our eyes were out for Elzevirs and Alduses and Plant ins, 
and hoping alvjays for an incunabulum. 

My brother and I went to boarding school in 190'^j 
when I was sixteeno It was a small Unitarian boarding 
school in Tarrytown, New York. They didn't have much 
of a football team, but they had had correspondence with 
my mother who said she had two fine great big boys, and 
they were looking forward to us as candidates for their 
small team. When we arrived, you should have seen the 
faces of the other boys, several of them twice as large 
as we were at our ages. I remember I weighed a hundred 
pounds when I was sixteen and my brother something like 
seventy-five when he was fourteen and a half. 

At any rate, we had brought with us the things that 


we'd picked up in Mexico: a matador's sword and some 
banderillas from the bullfight ring, a little wrought- 
iron flagellation chain which we'd picked up, I think, 
in the thieves' market, and odds and ends of things of 
that sort--Mexican pottery, serapes and some Mexican em- 
broidery--and large shelf-fulls of the Latin and Greek 
classics published in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies. The school didn't know quite what to make out 
of these people. Alan, my brother, was a brilliant stu- 
dent and I always managed to squeeze through the examina- 
tions with a fairly good mark. 

We went back to Mexico in summers and made further 
explorations of the valley. I think I knew almost every 
footpath in it, either by foot or by bicycle, by automo- 
bile or horseback, or burro-back which was the only way 
you could go to some places. 

TUSLER: In what year had you originally gone to Mexico? 
SEEGER: I9OO. We had been back once when I was six 
years old, and just as we landed at Vera Cruz, a typhus 
epidemic broke out in Mexico Clty--Father thought it 
would be all right for him to be there, but we'd better 
not go up. So we spent several months in Puebla, a beau- 
tiful city and, in those days, an almost eighteenth-cen- 
tury colonial tovm with a very beautiful cathedral. 

The romance of the Mediterranean civilizations got 


into our 1:100(3, at least my brother's and my blood. I 
think my sister didn't take to it quite so seriously, 
but all my life Keats' "0 for a beaker full of the warm 
South, Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With 
beaded bubbles winking at the brim. And purple-stained 
mouth," was just all over the Mexican landscape. There 
was an identification of the romantic poets, Mexico, 
and the great learning of Europe, southern Europe es- 
pecially, that laid hold of us and dominated our lives. 
My life was amplified by the music of northern Europe 
which I first came to know — Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, 
Schubert, Schumann, Wagner and later Brahms, and then 
gradually pushing the things back to Bach, and so forth. 
But my brother was definitely a Romance language man. 

It's impossible for me to detach the important 
things in my life from these two years in Mexico, 1902 
to 1904, when I was fourteen to sixteen, and in the six 
summers going back, mostly by sea, sometimes taking friends 
with us from school or college, until I graduated from 
college in I908. The world was one enormous universe 
of gorgeous experiences and gorgeous opportunities which 
you couldn't define because you couldn't see how on earth 
you'd ever come to grips with the situation. It was a 
hang-over of that nightmare that I spoke of, v/here you 
reached out and tried with every ounce of energy and 


determination you had to reach one of these beautiful 
planets and move it just a little bit so that it wouldn't 
do whatever was awful that it was going to do, and you 
couldn't reach it, and then you woke up with a crash. I 
remember [this] even up to the time I graduated from 
school and was slated to go to college. 

My mother had always wanted me to go to Harvard. I 
didn't want to go to college; you had to study there and 
I didn't want to study. I wanted to live. I couldn't 
see that going into my father's business was living, and 
college was the only other alternative that seemed pos- 
sible to me. It was either going [to college or] to work 
in my father's business, and my mother would have wept 
unceasingly until I ended up going to college. 

But college wasn't anything. It was a bore. I didn't 
particularly care for the people who were going to col- 
lege or the things they had in their minds. My school 
friends were nice, they were nice friends, they were 
nice boys, but they weren't interested in what I v/as 
interested in. They had nothing to do with these beauti- 
ful peach-colored orbs or with the Milky Way or the 
thick stars or the planets or the beautiful scenery of 
Mexico or nice perfumes and flowers and other things 
that were much nearer and very nice, such as the smell 
of a newly cut lawn. These boys weren't interested in 


that. All they were interested in was going out and 
making money. So going to college didn't mean anything 
to me. I said, "Well, if it's the only thing I can do, 
I'll go. I suppose I'll have to put up with it." So 
I left, finally, for college, feeling pretty much cut 
loose from anything that I had known up to that time. 

When I opened the catalog, I discovered there was 
a Department of Music. I remember going around to old 
Holden Chapel, which was the place where the Music De- 
partment wa,s lodged in those days, a single little room 
about 30 by 40 feet, and sitting down there poring over 
the catalog deciding what I'd take. There was a rather 
nice boy next to me, and we got to talking. I said, 
"I'm going to take ev^ery course there is," and he said, 
"So am I." 

So we became good friends, and we went through prac- 
tically everything except the History of Music, which I 
didn't take because it was talking about music and I 
thought that was a ridiculous thing to do. If you wanted 
to make music, that was all right; if you wanted to talk 
about it, well, that was sort of fun, it didn't make 
much difference; but to get together and talk about it 
seriously, that was just stupid ; only people who v/eren't 
musicians did that. Well, that began to mean that life 
was [worth] living again, and the first thing, of course. 


I thought of was putting to music some of the beautiful 
poems that I had been reading. 

TUSLER: What had been your musical education after you 
had stopped taking piano lessons? 

SEEGER: Nothing. I just played the piano every day, as 
much as I had time for, and played the duets with my fa- 
ther, and that was the end of it. And, of course, lis- 
tened to the popular music of Mexico and played a lot of 
it by ear. 

TUSLER: But no formal training during those years? 
SEEGER: No formal training. 1 had a good voice, and I 
had always sung with my mother. Mother had a way of 
putting us to bed, even when we were little children, by 
singing to us. She had a nice voice and, while she was 
brought up by a nurse who sang her all "the old bloody 
ballads," as Mother said, those things by the time Mother 
became a young lady were not considered quite comme il 
faut . So she reformed herself and, being very pretty and 
having plenty of beaus and many of them singing popular 
songs of the time, she learned the popular songs and they 
used to sing them together at various sentimental moments. 

I should perhaps say a word about my mother. I've 
spoken mostly about my father. Her mother died shortly 
after she was born, and her father seemed to bear some 
kind of a grudge against the little girl for having been 


the cause of his wife's death. I don't know--I can't 
think of any other reason for his behaving as he did. 
He put her out immediately with a nurse and an aunt of 
hers, and practically never saw her. When he did see 
her, they'd be talking together for a little while when 
he'd suddenly get up and walk out and not come back until 
she'd gone to sleep. So she didn't see much of him. 

She had a wealthy grandfather who brought her up in 
a big house in Roxbury (her ancestors were m.ostly ship- 
ping merchants and ministers and people like that), and 
she had an uncle who was quite a wealthy man. They always 
said, "Now, Elsie, you needn't worry--when you grow up 
you'll inherit plenty of money from us." Well, the money 
all vanished. The uncle gave his eight hundred thousand 
dollars to a seamen's institute, and I think the grand- 
father's estate was pretty much distributed among impos- 
sible inheritors. She was left with a small fortune which 
gave her about twelve hundred dollars a year. Well, 
twelve hundred dollars a year in the iSyO's, the l880's, 
was a very handsome incom^e, equivalent I suppose to eight 
or ten thousand now. 

So mother was always a favorite child, and when she 
came to be a teenager in Cincinnati she was put in the 
best school there. There she met Vj'illiam Taft, who was 
later president, and the Hollisters, and Nicholas Longworth 


who married Alice Roosevelt. She met all the famous and 
wealthy people in Cincinnati. Mother had one very pecu- 
liar, I won't say habit, but disposition: she had many 
warm friends but the ones that she talked about were all 
wealthy. Her warm friends [who] were not wealthy--v:ell, 
they were friends, but they weren't so much in evidence 
and they werexn't talked about. I think this was quite 
unconscious on Mother's part. If anybody had said to 
her, "Elsie, you seem to only speak of your friends viho 
are wealthy," she would have been shocked. But the fact 
is that she definitely was brought up with a small inde- 
pendent income, knew people who had small and large in- 
dependent incomes, and always expected my father to have 
a large independent income. 

My father, on the other hand, when he got enough 
money to support a family with the requisite number of 
servants, send them to good schools and live in a nice 
house, then he would lay off. He didn't want to make a 
lot of money; he wanted just enough to be a gentleman 
as he saw a gentleman should be: that is, someone who 
would read books, be able to drav7, paint, play music, 
and do as he wished. He never made the millions, but he 
always made enough to keep Mother well supplied with do- 
mestic service. So that was the situation. 

Well, when I got loose on my own, that kind of an 


atmosphere J very naturally^ clung to me. My friends in 
college were all well-to-do boysj, all with independent 
incomes J whose families didn't have to work unless they 
v/anted to. I went around with others who either had in- 
herited or would inherit a great deal of money, and the 
general atmosphere when I was in boarding school and 
when I was in college was that the Seeger hierarchy of 
nobility was extended. The Seegers were still unique, 
but I discovered that there were a great many people in 
the world v7ho could be friends of the Seegers: that is, 
they were well brought up, they were well educated, they 
were not dissipated, and they all had enough money to 
live on and to live very well on. When I went to visit 
in their houses I was astonished to find out that they 
lived even better than we lived at home] instead of hav- 
ing a house of "size A," they would have a "size 2-A," 
"3-A," and so forth. [laughter] 

But this all just happened, and it was quite in 
keeping with my father's political philosophy, which I 
had im.bibed from early days, that about ten percent of 
humanity were intelligent, worthy of living. Another 
twenty percent could serve as lieutenants in keeping the 
vast unwashed, uneducated, hopeless seventy percent of 
humanity just from going wild. Of course, the Seegers 
were members of the ten percent and superior in every 


way to then, because that ten percent had mostly to 
spend its time making money and governing countries, be- 
ing generals in wars and being workers who just worked 
all the time. They weren't human beings, really; they 
were educated, they were nice people and you wanted to 
have full consideration of them; but they worked all the 
time, and the ambition of a gentleman was not to work 
all the time but to work when it was necessary and then 
live a human life, which meant music, painting, drawing, 
art, poetry and civilized life. 

You can see how this sort of a bringing up would 
create a first-rate snob, which was what I was at Harvard, 
and for several years afterward. I was so much of a 
snob that I wouldn't even consider what was ordinarily 
called Harvard snobbery. I pretended to look down on 
it, the boys that belonged to the fashionable clubs and 
had their own automobiles and gave dinners at the most 
expensive restaurants, and that sort of thing. I felt 
that they were a little bit low. With my friends, we 
more or less began to consolidate ourselves in the real top- 
notch snobbery of Harvard and became recognized as the 
"intellectual snobs." Well, you can imagine that this 
whole trend from a rather modest small-town beginning, 
my father going to work at sixteen and my mother marrying 
a poor young man who was just starting off making his 


own living, gradually just fit itself right in to this 
attitude that the v;-orld was made for this minute minor- 
ity of human beings. 

When it came to m.usic, of course, we very quickly 
discovered that the small group of us (let me see, three, 
with a couple of hangers-on) were just the top of the 
music pile as far as United States went. The great Euro- 
pean composers whom we knew at that time, Wagner, Brahms 
(both had just died, you see), were giving way to Debussy, 
Ravel, Scriabin, and we were going to be the successors 
of those. 

TUSLER: Your intent then was to be a composer? 
SEEGER: Oh, yes, and our compositions were highly touted. 
I should probably go into that in our next session because 
that really is interesting, so I won't say anything about 
it now. But what I want to build up now, In this kind 
of rough sketch, is how one came to be as one was when 
one was twenty-one. I don't know how good a picture I've 
made. With me and with my brother, it was a cosmological 
situation in v;hich the smallest elements fitted. There 
was no dichotomy between the smallest and the largest. 
There was a perfect unity between the smallest and lar- 
gest act of either ray brother or myself. He came to col- 
lege two years later than I and was even more of a pic- 
ture than I was. 




SEEGER: I could pick up this new reel at what was really 
coming to mean to me, at this moment, a great deal, he- 
cause I'd never thought it out before: how an early 
childhood nightmare, the memory of which had accompanied 
me all through my life and become identified with the 
whole outlook on life during the period of adolescence, 
could come to a kind of focus at the end of a college 

My freshman year I'd lived rather solitarily and 
not too happily because I couldn't connect the family way 
of living with the new situation. By the second year, it 
was much better. I began then to knit in a little bit 
more with m-y musical friends and more with the life of 
the rest of the class that I found myself associated with. 

Then my brother came when I was a junior. My brother 
was the very caricature of the carrying to extremes of 
my own feelings, which I never carried quite as far as 
he did. I went around to see him one time shortly after 
he had gotten established. I opened the door and found 
the room pitch black except for one candle burning. 

*Tape I, Side Two contains two separate recording sessions 


Alan was sitting in a chair meditating. He was medi- 
tating on a problem posed by Pico della Mirandola, an 
Italian philosopher (1463-1494); everything in the 
room fixed so that the atmosphere would harmonize 
with his meditations. 

I didn't carry the thing to that point. I'd 
become deeply enmeshed in my own composition and was 
turning out compositions at quite a rate, songs to 
the poems of Shelley and Keats and others, which 
meant a very heavily emotional urge with an intellec- 
tual capacity that couldn't quite keep up with it. 
I must put this off till next time when I'm going to 
treat the musical end of things. The thing that I 
want to go back to now is to show how this cosmologi- 
cal-intellectual-emotional setup blended right in 
with the social setup which, if anything, was a con- 
tradiction of it, but was nonetheless real. And 
that's what I could start with next time. 

SEPTEMBER 22, 1966 

SEEGER: At the beginning of the second session, I must 
explain that the adjustment of the Seeger-family outlook 
on life and the Harvard outlook on life was not a very 
complicated one; there was not much difference. My friends 


were of two kinds: one, the average college boy, with 
two of whom I roomed. They were both on the second foot- 
ball team, played guard, and weighed a good two hundred 
and twenty-five when in training, and my weight was a 
hundred and forty-two, which it still is. We roomed to- 
gether but we went entirely different ways, and perhaps 
that is one of the reasons why we got on. 

At any rate, my close friends were about five. 
Reginald Sweet was a very capable musician, an excellent 
pianist, composed easily, was the son of the president 
of the Sweet-Orr Overall Company. He was well supplied 
with funds, but lived a very penurious life. Then there 
was George Foote, who was the son of a Boston banker long 
deceased, whose mother was a charming person and had 
married quite an unusual Episcopal minister. The mother 
and the stepfather and their daughter, Penelope, lived 
in Cambridge. The third was John Hall Wheelock, the 
poet, whose tenth or twelfth volume of poetry I just re- 
ceived yesterday. Fourth, there was Edward Brewster 
Sheldon, the young playwright, to whose spectacular rise 
while still in college to being a national figure on the 
Broadway stage I owe a good deal of the excitement of 
my sophomore year. Fifth was Van Wyck Brooks, who has 
distinguished himself with literary criticism, especially 
of the New England tradition. Both my roommates died 


not long after leaving college, along with several other 
athletes that I knew. Of these five men--Sweetj Foote, 
Sheldon^ Wheelock and Brooks--only Wheelock is still 

We were members of a small intellectual club called 
the Stylus, which was housed in an old wooden cottage 
between Mount Auburn Street and the river. We used to 
meet in the afternoon for tea and cinnamon toast, and 
the sessions would sometimes last well into the night 
with supper being mostly tea and cinnamon toast, finally 
winding up, perhaps, at a little cellar coffeeshop run 
by an old wag named Rammy, where one could get bacon and 
eggs and things of that sort. 

My sophomore year was spent more in company with 
Edward Sheldon than anyone else. We went to the theater 
as often as a new play came. I took Professor [George 
Pierce] Baker's famous Course 47 in English drama along 
with Ned. We heard the first performance of a Russian 
troupe starring Nazimova when we were two of the four 
people in the orchestra seats. When Sarah Bernhardt came 
to town, Ned and I "suped," as they said, several times, 
and I remember once being one of two detectives who were 
somehov/ involved in a murder and Ned and I were standing 
(he had a few words to say; I didn't have anything to 
say--it was all in French and I was only the second 


detective) on the stage when Sarah Bernhardt came on to 
discover her husband or lover, I've forgotten which, 
murdered. I shall never In my life forget that shriek. 
It practically ran down your backbone. Of course at 
the end she gave us the famous smile and thanks . There 
were a number of other exciting plays given that year, 
and I formed the Idea of writing an opera, perhaps with 
Ned as the librettist. 

The music courses were turning out not to be what 
I had hoped they would be. Music was dragged down from 
the lofty level on which I had always placed It and was 
talked about in terms that were to me almost disgusting. 
In those days and for years before, even when I was ten 
years old, I could harmonize practically any tune anyone 
would sing me for a second time at the piano, in any key, 
but the way the chords were talked about in the harmony 
class disgusted me. 

I was, for Instance, forbidden to write parallel 
fifths, parallel octaves and parallel fourths. I remem- 
ber looking at the teacher and saying, "But I like paral- 
lel fifths and octaves and fourths." 

He said, "Well, they are forbidden, you mustn't do 

"Well," I said, "I don't like being forbidden." 

Going on a little way, parallel sevenths and seconds 


were sometimes very, very pleasing; but they weren't al- 
lowed. In other vrords, I refused to submit to the tra- 
ditional discipline. I yielded enough in the examina- 
tions to just squeeze by, and they were rather disgusted 
with me . 

My other courses in the college I paid almost no 
attention to. I was not interested in them; I merely took 
them because they were required. To begin the year I 
enrolled in about twice as many courses as I was allowed 
to take, and then was allowed to drop those that vfere 
hardest. My scheme was that I could spend all my time 
on music and just bone up at the last minute, enough to 
pass the examinations with a C or even a D. I kept this 
up all through college, taking the craziest number of 
courses, in the Koran and the Epic. I've forgotten what 
courses some of the others were, but I remember the Koran 
because it was taught by a dear old man whom I really 
loved. My name, of course, came up on account of my musi- 
cal work (now I'm anticipating) for the Phi Beta Kappa, 
and I was ignominious ly thrown down on account of my 
general college record, which was absolutely terrible 
and scandalous. [laughter] I took a couple of courses 
in Spanish because I knew enough Spanish to get by with- 
out doing any studying at all, and that's the way it went, 

By the middle of the sophomore year the music 


professors began to pay a little bit of attention to 
me, but not much. I was considered a revolutionary and 
interesting from that viewpoint, but pretty much their 
despair when it came to teaching me anything. 

When it came to the history of music, I claimed 
that no musician need bother about history. History was 
talking about music, and the only people v7ho talked 
about music were the people who either wanted to make 
fun about it, or else just talk about it because it was 
fun, or who didn't have any music in them. So I never 
took a course in history of music, but I took all the 
other courses, I think: harmony, counterpoint, canon, 
fugue, free composition, and so forth. 

The denouement came at the beginning of the junior 
year. A course was offered in song writing. I'd written 
quite a number of songs by that time and found that the 
course wasn't to be given that year, it was to be given 
in alternate years. So I got together with my friends 
and we made a petition to the Academic Senate to have 
the course given, and the professor graciously consented 
to give it. The first meeting we had quite a fev; songs 
to hand in. I remember I had one to a poem of Fiona 
Macleod's. The words were supposed to be sung by a m.onk 
who had been walled up in a tree for some kind of ritual 
deficiency. [laughter] I was known to the professor 


from then on as the man who wrote the song about the 
monk in the tree. [laughter] It was the favorite form 
of execution, apparently, of the ancient Celts. 

By this time, my friends Foote and Sweet and I were 
saturated with Debussy, some of his best piano pieces, 
the Estampes and the Images . We had the scores sometimes 
for the orchestra pieces before we had a chance to hear 
them played, because we had a little music store in 
Boston that would import these scores for us. Our pro- 
fessors were blithely ignorant of these works. We had 
scores also of D'Indy, the later works of Strauss and 
Mahler, Reger, Scrlabin, and some of the least known 
French composers, De Severac, Erik Satie and I've forgot- 
ten even the names of some of the others. Saturated in 
this music and v;riting music more or less in emulation 
of it, our professors didn't know v/hat to make of us. 

The course in song writing was an absolute flop. 
About the second or third meeting the professor, who was 
completely beyond his depth (it was old Walter R. Spalding), 
volunteered that a certain note in one of the composi- 
tions should be changed. It was a composition of a ra- 
ther elderly Radcliffe girl (we had two Radcliffe v/omen 
both fairly on in years in the course). A howl of disa- 
greement and derision broke out, and the professor prompt- 
ly covered his tracks and never offered another suggestion 


the rest of the year. He would simply say, "That's fine, 
bring me in another next week." So we did. We composed 
for each other; we gave up the faculty as hopeless. 

There was one man we rather respected as a teacher, 
William Heilman, who was patient with us and stood for 
our rebelliousness, but tried to make us toe the line in 
a strange kind of counterpoint teaching. It ran more 
or less this way: in four-four time, whenever you had 
a long note in the cantus firmus you were to put in eighth 
notes for the other part. When you had two quarters or 
eighth notes in the cantus firmus (oh, no, you never had 
eighth notes in the cantus firmus) you would put in eighths 
or alternating quarters and eighths, and that was about 
all there was to it. Preparation and resolution were 
supposed to be done according to the rules, and I never 
paid much attention to the rules, so I just wrote the kind 
of counterpoint exercise that I wanted and got, I'm 
afraid, a pretty low mark. The parts were very indepen- 
dent, incidentally. 

Meanwhile, we went in to the Boston Symphony Orchestra 
for the auction of seats and bought seats very close for 
the Friday rehearsal and up in the gallery for the Satur- 
day concert. V/e took scores with us for everything that 
we could lay our hands on. One of the two days vie fol- 
lowed the score; the other day we would listen. It would 


vary according to the piece of music, how well we'd knovm 
it, how well we'd studied the score, and so forth and so 
on. There were two excellent conductors. The first was 
Wilhelm Gercke, the second Karl Muck, one of the great 
German conductors of the day, a short man with a Roman 
nose, a terrific disciplinarian, and a superb musician. 
I got my first lessons in musicianship from him. We would 
follow him by eye whenever we knew the score well enough, 
to see just how he beat a certain measure. We would trust 
our ears when our eyes were glued to the score. 

By this time, by the junior year, I had discovered 
that I could go to the library all by myself and study 
sitting in the old dusty corridors of Gore Hall, since 
torn down, fortunately. We found music there that I'm 
sure had never been opened by anybody--tops would be 
covered with dust. I can't say that any music had uncut 
pages, but many books that turned out later to be classics 
in musicology had uncut pages. Our respect for our tea- 
chers went down and down. Moving through the shelves, I 
discovered a whole lot of music that I had never known 
existed before, that was the subject of the course on 
music history which I was not taking. I immediately sat 
dovm and tried to read scores of the sixteenth-century 
polyphonists and music from about then on. At that time 
I didn't discover anything earlier than the sixteenth 


century; in fact, I'm not sure that there v;as anything 
in the library! There might have been, though. Inci- 
dentally, I kept looking at the musicological works which 
seemed to me hopelessly dry, not talking about music but 
talking about aspects of music, and I wasn't interested 
in aspects of music except to talk Jokingly about them. 

It seemed to me that when I got together with my 
friends and we talked, say, for several hours about music, 
we threw words around with reckless abandon; we knew we 
didn't kno\T what they meant, and they didn't mean the 
same thing when one would use the word and v/hen another 
did, or when one used the same word at two different min- 
utes succeeding each other. It struck me that these 
books on music were just hopelessly out of the real main- 
stream of music. My claim was that when a man sat down 
to compose or when he sat down to perform or to listen 
to music, nothing in those books figured at all. You 
didn't have to know a damn thing of what was in a book 
in order to compose, to perform or to listen to it. So 
I considered myself really pretty much apart from^ that 
sort of thing. 

I did have to read librettos of operas, words of 
songs, and that led me into French and German poetry. 
My French and German were rudimentary, but I had enough 
ear for the languages to appreciate the setting of the 


sound into music. With a dictionary and perhaps with 
some translations as ponies I managed to get along pretty- 

Now let me see what more there is to say about that 
college period. One went to every concert that one could. 
When we heard that Pelleas et Melisande v/as to be given 
at the Metropolitan in New York for the first time in 
the United States^ the three of us went down to hear it. 
The performance was pretty good with Mary Garden as 
Melisande, and the coaching, the training was from Paris. 
It undoubtedly represented Debussy's wishes and v;e were 
delighted with it. We knew the opera practically by 
heart by that time, so that it was a great experience. 
Occasionally there would be a trip to New York for ano- 
ther premiere, and fortunately Muck was giving us all the 
great Strauss works, Mahler symphonies, Bruckner sym- 
phonies j and the chamber m.usic concerts were giving us 
some of the later works, also. We were in the very best 
place in the United States to get the kind of musical 
training that you could get by yourself. 

The musical training we got at the university was 
practically nil. We had a musical club and one time we 
got out first-chair men from zhe woodwind section of the 
Boston Symphony and they played som.e of our compositions 
with piano accompaniment, but they were pretty poor stuff. 


I must say, as I look "back on it now. Not having any 
instruction that was worthy of the name we had to just 
bumble around and learn how to v;rite for these instru- 
ments ourselves. As the junior year went on, our songs 
were more and more astonishingly received by the profes- 
sors. They thought that this was really the most extra- 
ordinary stuff they had ever heard. It was full of dis- 
sonances and rhythms that they had never heard of before 
and never thought could possibly be made, and we were de- 
lighted with them. We played for each other; we composed 
for each other. 

I, who didn't have much piano technique because I'd 
never studied, had to get most of my piano music through 
my friends and I would take home what they were playing. 
I would have copies and would laboriously try to play 
Les Jardins sous la Pluie, Pagodes and other works of 
Debussy to my ovin delight but, of course, very far from 
anything like a decent performance. By the middle of 
the junior year, I think it was, somebody wrote to my 
father saying this man ought to have piano lessons. So 
I was put to work with Edward Noyes, a good teacher, 
Leschetizky-trained, who was teaching some of my friends. 
He wanted me to study finger exercises again, scales and 
arpeggios. I told him that scales and arpeggios were 
not music and that the music that I was writing didn't 


have scales and arpeggios in it, anyway. What the heck 
was the use of studying scales and arpeggios? He was 
very patient and I _did do a little rudimentary scaling 
and arpeggiating, but not much. 

I did improve, though, and he set me down to play 
Bach. And I said, "Well, now Bach is very nice and I 
like to hear Bach every now and then, but why under the 
sun should I play Bach? It's dead music. I want to play 
music that's music of our time." Well, he didn't know 
any and was just recently becoming familiar with it 
through my friends' indoctrination, and you can see how 
the thing went. He thought--well, you get around to 
those more difficult things later on. Meanwhile, I was 
playing Erik Satie, which was about as simple as anything 
could be, far simpler than anything of Bach that was 
given to me. 

Well, things went along this way with almost hectic 
excitement. My pocket money v/as enough to be able to 
go to town, get a good dinner in a good restaurant and 
knock around a little bit with the rest of them after- 
wards. I never went into the heavy drinking that was 
going on. One night, I think it was in my sophomore 
year, when I had been out of the room for just a moment, 
they filled my stein up with everything they could find 
and dared me to drink it, so of course I drank it and I 


was horribly sick^ went to sleep for twenty-four hours 
after getting rid of it. So drinking didn't appeal [to 
me] . 

The knocking around at the houses of prostitution 
and picking up streetwalkers never appealed to me or my 
brother. I never even went as far as he did. He used 
to go down to the famous house. Seventeen Seventy, I've 
forgotten what street, and sit in the parlor with the girls 
and the men and boys that came in, and never would go 
upstairs. So he was quite a character. The general at- 
mosphere was one of great puritan restraint. One wan- 
dered sometimes for hours through the streets, hoping 
that the destined face of the best beloved v;ould emerge 
from a crowd. Of course it never did. One sometimes saw 
beautiful and attractive faces where there was a moment 
of recognition, but one always passed. 

My intimacy with Ned Sheldon had tapered off as I 
found myself going to more and more concerts and fewer 
and fev/er theaters, but we kept in touch. In the middle 
of the junior year, we were all elected to the Signet 
Society, which was the society of men who had distinguished 
themselves in the class, with the emphasis on intellec- 
tual distinction or social leadership. I don't think 
there were any athletes in the Signet, although there 
might have been one or two. I might say that none of us 


were elected to the fashionable fraternitles--they weren't 
fraternities J they were clubs. We just didn't go around 
much with what v;e called the members of "the Gold Coast" 
even though v/e lived on the Gold Coast; my friends could 
perfectly well support it, although my father probably 
wouldn't have wanted me to go in for the expenses of one 
of the clubs. 

The Signet had a very simple initiation. You read 
a piece in a darkened room with the light shining down 
on your page and on you, and then questions came from 
the darkness of the room. One of the questions that was 
asked everybody was Nee Adam umbilicum habebat ? Well, 
anybody who'd had a little Latin could understand it, 
and you were supposed to make some brilliant kind of 
an answer. My paper was a take-off on the libretto 
Salome by Oscar Wilde that had just been set to music 
by Richard Strauss. It was a rather silly thing but 
it kept them more or less laughing. I was a great ad- 
mirer of that kind of verbiage at that time and of 
the drav/ings of Aubrey Beardsley which illustrated my 
copy of the play. 

The Signet was in an old eighteenth-century house 
which still stands and is still occupied by the club. 
The membership v/as most agreeable. We met for lunch 
and supper pretty regularly and had a steward who fed 


us fairly well. 

Feeling that one was making a success of one's col- 
lege, after having in one's freshman and sophomore years 
pretty much made a failure, was tonic, I think, for all 
of us, and the junior year ended in a flourish of enthusiasm. 
My roommate, one of the football players, visited me for 
the summer in Mexico and my brother and I, little skinny 
specimens (I remember my brother couldn't have weighed 
much more than 105 or 110), took delight in taking this 
great big husky football player out into the Mexican 
countryside and walking him groggy, either through deep 
sand in pretty intense heat or up the volcanic cones and 
mountains. He was a good soul and he took it all in 
good grace, but I think would never forget some of the 
torture we put him through. 

Returning to the senior year, v/e were by that time 
a close-knit body of comrades who knew pretty much what 
they were going to do and had great confidence in each 
other's being able to do what he wanted. The attendance 
at concerts continued. Composition was intense. I had 
a beautiful room for my junior and senior years in the 
old Apthorp House. It was one of the old colonial homes 
that backed on the Harvard Yard in the old days and had 
a lawn that tapered on down to the Charles River. The 
whole Dlace was built up by the time I reached it, but 


the hand-carved bannisters and the frieze along the stair- 
way, the cornice pieces, were all beautifully hand carved. 
I had a great big room on the second floor, about twenty 
by twenty, with an open fire and two small bedrooms. The 
other men in the building were friends and it was a really 
glorious period. 

But one mostly worked. By that time, my roommate 
was out of the building practically all of the time, and 
I was in my room most of the time when I wasn't either 
in the library or in Boston at a concert or in the clas- 
ses which I did have to go to occasionally. It was in 
the old days of the elective system. Ydu could take 
anything you wanted and there was nothing you had to do. 
My French was weak, my German was also weak, my Spanish 
was weak, but I didn't have to take any courses. My 
English was good enough so that I could anticipate the 
required freshman English which was unfortunate. So 
all those things meant that there was no study except 
music study and music work. 

By about the middle of the senior year there was 
the question of what would happen the next year. Well, 
of course, ray father had determined to take me into his 
business in Mexico City. I didn't want to go into busi- 
ness, but I didn't see what else I could do because I 
didn't want to go into anybody else's business--! wanted 


to compose. "Well," my father said, "now come on, you 
Just work with me, the work won't be too hard; you'll 
have your evenings free and your weekends; work for me 
for ten years and then you'll have enough to live on, 
and you can devote the rest of your life to composition." 
He approved of that--that was the way a gentleman should 
do things; he'd done it himself even though he had a 
family. Of course my having a family was out. I could 
be a musician but that was all. [laughter] 

By about the middle of the year I learned that my 
friends Foote and Sweet were going abroad to study, and 
Wheelock was going with them. Sheldon was going down 
to New York to continue his fame. His play Salvation 
Nell v/as already being put on with Mrs. Fiske. It v;as 
a tremendous success. It was a contemporary play of 
New York life. Van Wyck Brooks was a little bit on the 
edge of things. He was more a friend of Wheelock' s than 
mine, but he did wind up abroad and I saw him from time 
to time afterwards. 

About the middle of the senior year it appeared that 
I would not have enough money to go abroad. Well, there 
was a hullabaloo, so Professor Spalding kindly wrote to 
my father saying that it would be a crime not to send 
me abroad to study because all young American musicians 
had to go abroad to study--they could am.ount to nothing 


in the United States unless they had gone abroad to study. 
One didn't pick up American music where American music 
v;as; you had to pick up American music v/here European 
music was. So my father said he would send me abroad, 
but this would be the last year and then I would be on 
my own. 

The preparation for the graduating ceremonies, the 
honors in music, began. Sweet and I each wrote orches- 
tral pieces and wrote the required four-part fugue for 
string quartet, the a cappella piece for mixed voices, 
and in reserve I had a string quartet and a violin sona- 
ta and about three dozen songs, besides some odds and 
ends of smaller pieces. On the fringe of this small 
group was a man named [Philip Greeley] Clapp, who was 
a brilliant instrumentalist and orchestra man and got 
A pluses in all his courses, and Edward Ballantine, the 
pianist who later became professor at Harvard. Clapp 
became head of the music department in Iowa. There was 
one other, Edward Royce, who was a son of Professor 
Royce, the famous philosopher, and who had great diffi- 
culty composing and rather envied the rest of us our 
fluency. He was going abroad too, and Ballantine was 
going abroad. 

So preparations for the honors degree began, and 
Sweet and I were the contenders for the highest honors. 


Our scores were handed in, and it was assured that if 
the parts were copied they would be played by the Boston 
Symphony Orchestra on one of their pop nights. We made 
a point: we decided ahead of time that we would not 
write the kind of score that would shock the committee 
too much. We would write a score that was reasonably 
within hailing distance of the traditional music of 
around I90O (this was I908, of course) but would have 
in it enough of our own originality to make us feel that 
it was worthwhile doing. I've forgotten what Sweet's 
composition was. Mine was an overture to The Shadowy 
Waters of William Butler Yeats, and it makes me laugh 
now to think of Yeats being given the kind of a Germanic 
overture that this overture was. It was somewhat Tchai- 
kovsky-ish, v/ith a great big sweeping second theme which 
I thought would appeal to the committee. 

Well, we finally stood up for the committee, and 
I've forgotten how Sweet fared, but he got by; he was 
an excellent pianist and he could play his score right 


So they finally came to mine. They asked me to go 
up and play the piano. I said, "But I'm not a pianist, 
and this is an orchestra score." 

Professor Spalding whispered to me, "Oh, just go up 
and play a few of the themes, just some of the nice 


passages. Play that second theme there, they'll all like 
that," and so forth and so on. 

I said, "Well, won't they come up and look over, 
and they'll see the things I'm leaving out?" 

He said, "Oh, no, no, no, they couldn't read it." 

Well, that's about what I expected, so I reluctant- 
ly went up to the piano. Then my friend Clapp, who was 
listening in on the situation, said, "I'll help you." 
Clapp had the technical virtuosity of a Mozart, pretty 
nearly, but no originality; otherwise, he would have 
been probably one of the great musicians of the twenti- 
eth century. His technical skill was simply unbelieva- 
ble. He could read anything at sight, on half a dozen 
different instruments, at any speed. So he stood behind 
me, and when I was fussing around in the middle of the 
piano trying to play what I could, he would play what 
was up above or what was down below, and if my hands were 
rather more spread he'd put an arm over my shoulder and 
play a horn part in the middle. 

We put on a complete performance from beginning to 
end, and they liked it enormously. One of the members of 
the committee said, "I like that man Seeger's music. He 
writes tunes that you can whistle." [laughter] I couldn't 
help thinking in later times of Stalin. 


It was a tough problem for the committee. Either 
one of us alone would have gotten highest honors, summa 
cu"^ la-ude , but the two of us together were clearly tied. 
Sweet's music was much more conventional than mine. He 
stuck to the rules much better. He had a steady record 
of A's back of him, and mine was a scandalous record; 
so we tied, and we both got magna cums . Foote got a 
plain cum laude . A cum laude in those days was a pretty 
good mark. A magna cum laude put you in about the high- 
est twenty-four of a class of--what was it, five hundred? 
I've forgotten--with only two or three summas . The 
diploma was about four times the size of the ordinary 
and was something quite nice to look at, so I began to 
feel as if I had really been making ray way in the world 
and went home to Mexico for the summer with my friend 
George Foote as guest. 

We had a hilarious summer and were visited by some 
more friends, and I can remember going over to Cuernavaca 
from Mexico City in the first automobile that went over 
the first automobile road. It was nothing but a pile 
of mud dug from two ditches on each side, and if you 
didn't keep in the middle you were in danger of sliding 
into a ditch. At the top of the divide, Tres Marias, 
we started sliding down the other side, and we were 
presently met by the governor of the state, who was a 


client of my father's--! think he bought sugar machinery 
from him--and transshipped my father and somebody else 
to his official car to drive into town. We boys went on 
in the other car driven by the chauffeur. I remember 
my friend William Kurtz, who has since become a banker 
in Philadelphia, lifting his boater--that is, his hard- 
brim straw hat--to the convicts who had built the road, 
who were lined up on each side holding their shovels more 
or less at attention. We twitted him no end at that, 
but he kept right on, as I remember. He thought the 
convicts built the road, and he ought to lift his hat 
to them in good democratic style. 

By this time my brother and my sister and myself 
were pretty well grown up and were full of hyperidealism. 
My sister had come up to be my guest at dctnces at the 
Signet Club, and my mother and sister were ray guests for 
the class day celebrations. I had several girlfriends 
whom I had invited to dances, but didn't feel inclined 
enough to any of them to have them substitute for my 
dearly beloved sister. Sister was very beautiful, and 
there was no trouble filling her dance card for her, and 
I didn't have to do much dancing which always bothered 
me no end. 

It v;as a very nice climax to my mother's life. She 
had always wanted her oldest son--in fact, both her sons-- 


to go to Harvard, because some of her flames when she 
was a young thing had gone to Harvard, and there we were. 
I was graduating high, which pleased my father, and had 
some very nice friends whose parents Mother approved of 
because they were very wealthy— I v/on't say because they 
were very wealthy, but because they were awfully nice 
people, and they happened at the same time to have a 
lot of money. 

So everything was going very well, and one could 
see now from this viewpoint, these many years later, how 
the Seeger family's attitude toward their being a royal 
Seeger family with the rest of a kind of nobility or 
seminobility stretched around, and then hoi polloi some- 
where off doing their duty and being kept in order at 
a distance, was simply amplified and projected in the 
form of this small knot of intellectuals in my particular 
class. There were perhaps one or two in the later class, 
perhaps one or two like Max Perkins in the class ahead, 
who were worthy to be considered more or less on the 
level of the Seegers. This first entering, then, into 
a larger life from the old family life was simply a dupli- 
cation of it on a slightly larger scale. There were a 
few more people in it, but they were rigorously selected 
and had to prove themselves worthy to be considered along 
with a member of the Seeger family. Needless to say. 


my mother and father and sister and brother approved of 
George Foote and my friends Sweet and Wheelock (I don't 
think they met Sheldon) and occasionally some of m.y more 
worldly classmates who were not members of the intellec- 
tual snobs, so that the whole life up to twenty-one came 
to a very pleasant climax. 

I should have put into my first tape some other as- 
pects of this life which I've been speaking so rosily 
about. At the time I had the nightmare that I spoke of, 
and that had haunted me from time to time all through 
this period, I had also been put out of my little room 
next to my mother and father. I was the golden-haired 
boy (and I mean golden-haired because I did have golden 
hair and beautiful curls) of my mother and father, until 
my sister began to be the cherubic specimen and very 
beautiful child that she turned out to be, so along about 
when she was a year old or perhaps a little over, she 
became my father's favorite, and being so little. 

"Oh, Don" (I was always called Don, which was an 
abbreviation of Don Carlitos, which they used to call me 
in Mexico), "Don, you wouldn't mind giving up your room 
to Sister, would you? Because she's so little, we have 
to have her nearer so we can hear her at night." 

Well, Don, of course, loved his little sister and 
gave up his room, but not without terrible feelings of 


jealousy and injury and anger at the parents for having 
treated him that way. This jealousy, a feeling of mal- 
treatment and resentment against the parents, followed 
me all the way through my life up to the point where 
about in the junior year I began to really find myself. 
I had a very strong inferiority complex, a feeling that 
I could never amount to anything, that I was bound to be 
maltreated by people and that everybody else was alvrays 
going to be able to be given a better show than I was . 

This was heightened by the delicateness of my bro- 
ther's health. My sister and I took the childhood di- 
seases in our stride; we'd have a little fever, and after 
a day or two we'd be just as well as could be. My bro- 
ther took everything as hard as possible, the way my 
father did. I think my mother rather took everything 
lightly, too. At any rate, Alan had to be babied, and 
Sister because she was so little had to be babied, and 
so of course I gallantly gave up all kinds of preroga- 
tives in order that their delicacies could be allowed 
for. Nevertheless, we were very good friends in a very 
tight-knit group, but I kept this very much under wraps 
to myself and never let anyone else, even to this day, 
knov; that I felt resentment about the way my younger 
brother and sister v/ere treated, or that I felt my parents 
had not done the right thing. 


This is a very important factor in ir.y later life. 
It showed in one episode which I have only a slight memory 
of, but in my father's autobiography I ran across it. 
When I was quite little, I must have been around three 
years old, I received a spanking for some childish evil 
doing, and when it was over, I wiped my tears away and 
kissed my father. He writes about it in the following 
way: "l never had much faith in the corporal punishment 
of children, but after this, I never laid a hand upon 
the child again." 

This attitude of forgivingness on my part and mak- 
ing allowance for other people's misdeeds has been a 
very powerful factor in my life, and I should bring it 
out at this time, because it had been the way in which 
I'd kept more or less on the level through a childhood 
which was not always the childhood I wanted at the time. 
I wanted to be very popular, and I wasn't. I wanted to 
be very big and strong, and I wasn't. I wanted to be 
able to run faster and pla^/ games better than other 
people, but I couldn't. I was hopelessly undersize. 
If any older boy started after me, I could always elude 
him by dexterity, by running and dodging and climbing 
over things that he couldn't climb over, so I managed 
to escape the ordinary beatings-up the small child usually 
undergoes. In fact, I can't remember ever having been 


beaten up. My brother was quite different. He faced 
these things head-on, and if an older boy wanted to bul- 
ly him, he'd face him up and get horribly beaten. But 
as I say, I can't remember ever a time when I got beaten 
up by anybody. 

This fact, the judicious flight and then the taunt- 
ing of the enemy from an advantageous cover or position, 
seemed to be an excellent strategy, and it worked beauti- 
fully up to boarding school where I had a similar situa- 
tion. There were two boys, the Page brothers, who were 
bullies and everybody was afraid of them. They were very 
much overgrown and strong, and I remember one time I was 
v/alking with a package of books from the study hall back 
to the building inhere we all lived. We were talking, 
and all of a sudden without any warning at all he caught 
me with a hard left hook in the solar plexus. It took 
my breath away. I didn't fall dov/n, but after a moment, 
while he just looked at me with a sardonic smile on his 
face wondering what I was going to do then, I simply 
looked at him and said, "That was a cowardly thing to 
do. You knov; I can't hit back at you." He and his 
brother never bothered me again, although they made every- 
body else's life miserable who was any smaller than them. 
So by the time I reached college I was pretty much con- 
vinced that I had a technique that could protect me in 


a good many rather tight places. By the time I got to 
college, of course, I was six-foot-two and pretty broad- 
shouldered, and then I never was thus threatened again 
in my lif e . 

The fact that I knew that I could be very easily 
beaten because I was so light always up to that time 
had made me place a good deal of reliance upon this 
nonviolent approach to things. The little religious 
instruction that I had had, had been from my mother who 
spoke of Jesus Christ occasionally, that he was a very 
fine man. She said, "Of course, some people think that 
he was God, but your father and I don't believe that he 
was God. We believe that he was one of the great men in 
the history of the world, and he did this and he did that, 
and he said this and he said that." She never mentioned 
miracles. She never spoke of any of the things that 
were hard to believe about the Christian ethos, but 
stressed the love of other people, the kindness to chil- 
dren, and of course stretched it over into the chivalry 
toward women; and my brother and my sister and I took 
this as our gospel. It worked, and it wasn't very long 
before we read it right into our general cosmological 
way of looking at things: that is, whenever my brother 
and I (I can't speak for my sister because she was youn- 
ger, and we didn't talk about such thiiags at the time) 


thought of meeting la blen almee , it was always in beauti- 
ful scenery from a view on a mountain, where you would 
have the great view that you would have from Tres Marias 
looking down on Cuernavaca with Popocatepetl and Ixtacci- 
huatl on one side and the hundreds and hundreds of square 
miles of sugar cane and forest and billowing hills going 
all the way down the Pacific Coast on the other. Of 
course, [we were] thoroughly suffused with the poetry 
of Shelley and Keats, so that the very little religious 
instruction, the poetry, the music, and the scenery of 
Mexico, were all done up in a beautiful package which 
summoned imm.ediately, when any one of them was mentioned, 
all the others. 

There was no regard, either on ray brother's part or 
on mine or, as far as I can remember, on my friends', 
of any feeling of awe about Christ. He was a good egg. 
He was there. He did the best he could at the time he 
was living, and it's the people who came after him that 
balled everything up about his teachings; and probably 
he didn't say lots of these things anyway, or else if 
he did, he said them out of one side of his mouth at one 
time and out of the other side of his mouth at another. 
That was OK with us, because this talking business was 
rather crazy anyway. You could contradict yourself from 
day to day and say, "What the hell, it doesn't make any 


difference." You could say with Walt Whitman, "Did 
I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself." 


OCTOBER 5, 1966 

TUSLER: Dr. Seeger, as a footnote to what we were talk- 
ing about last week, would you like to put on record what 
happened to the composition v/ith which you v;on the honors 
in your senior year? 

SEEGER: The Shadowy Waters was played in Symphony Hall, 
shortly after the committee had gone over it, by the 
Boston Pop Symphony Orchestra. I've forgotten who con- 
ducted. It was also played in Munich in the fall of that 
year, and I conducted it up at the Bohemian Club Grove 
High Jinx, or whatever they call it, a few years later. 
I'll tell more about that. The work was in no way remar- 
kable from the point of view of the history of European 
music, but it was perhaps remarkable in the history of 
American music at that time, although Charles Ives had 
already, as a man ten years older than I, gone far beyond 

I arrived in Europe with my friends George Foots 
and Reginald Sweet, Jack Wlieelock, to join Edward Ballan- 
tine and Edward Royce in the fall of I908. V/e all trick- 
led into Munich, which was supposed to be the place for 
young Americans to study music--that is, Foote, Sweet, and 
I did. It turned out that Munich was musically provincial 


to Berlin. Wheelock, the poet, was also with us, and 
we met at lunchtime and in the evening to talk over vari- 
ous matters of the young American rebels coming to close 
grips with the old tradition of German music. 

Our first explorations for teachers yielded very 
little promise. I remember one strange experience, go- 
ing to the man who v;as supposed to be the principal tea- 
cher of orchestration in the town. He looked over my 
overture and kept it with him for a couple of days and 
finally told me that there was nothing he could teach 
me, as I was quite competent. I knew I wasn't, but it 
sort of decreased my enthusiasm to study with him. Foote 
and Sweet left after six weeks or so for Berlin, where 
they found more promising teachers. I stayed on for 
awhile, because I liked Munich, but eventually joined 

I don't know what to say about the two and one-half 
years of my study in Germany. I didn't enjoy it much, 
and except for fine routine training in what might be 
called musicianship, I gained nothing from it. We led 
a quiet life, living in furnished rooms on the left bank 
of the Lutzow Ufer. We had good pianos in our rooms. 
Breakfast was served, coffee and rolls, and we worked 
more or less during the morning, had lunch together, in 
the afternoons went back to work, and in the evening 


usually met at a downtown restaurant prior to going to 
a concert or roaming around the city. 

We didn't know how to live in a European city. We 
had rather formal contact with the life of the city. 
We didn't enter into it at all, and 1 must say that as 
I look back on it as a period of study, it was a rather 
stupid business. I had letters of introduction. One 
brought me into contact with the vrealthy bankers of Ber- 
lin, and I was cordially received and invited to dinners 
and to dances. At the dances, most of the men were young 
German officers, and one can imagine my American pride 
in being one of the few men present in ordinary white 
tie and tails. 1 don't remember much about these houses, 
except that they were very well-to-do, the girls were 
very pretty and well-dressed, and everything was very 
formal indeed. The people whom I liked best were the 
Felix von Mendelssohns, who were descendants of the com- 
poser, and lived just the other side of the Brandenburger 
Tor, facing the Tiergarten and the Reichstag. They were 
awfully nice people, and I've often wondered what hap- 
pened to them in the terrible events of the Hitler regim.e. 

My general disregard of the other courses besides 
music at Harvard had left me to enter Berlin society as 
a com.plete ignoramus. I remember meeting one rather 
pretty girl that I'd have liked to have seen more of. 


and she asked me if I liked paintings, and I said, "Oh, 


She said, "V^at do you think of Van Gogh?" 

Well, I'd never heard of Van Gogh. [laughter] I 
had taken a course in fine arts at Harvard, but I think 
it left us sometime around I7OO, high and dry. 

My friendship with Jack Wheelock led me to read 
more and more German poetry, and I began to know some- 
thing about Goethe. But on the whole, I was a very 
uneducated young man and with my French music sympa- 
thies, a little bit out of v/ater in German musical life. 

One day I took a package of my songs and rang the 
doorbell to Richard Strauss 's apartment. I think it 
was out in Charlottenburg. The maid came to the door, 
and I asked if Herr Strauss v/as in. Before she could 
say no, I happened to see him in a mirror slipping from 
one room into another with an apprehensive glance at 
the front door. My heart was so touched by his evident 
desire to escape from having an unknown young musician 
intrude upon him that I took the "no" and went away. I'm 
sorry about this, because I think he'd have liked one 
or two of the pieces. 

My most fruitful study was with a fat little ex- 
conductor named Schmidt who promised me that if I'd work 
hard for six months with him that he could get me 


introduced to a German opera house where I could become 
an apprentice. I supplemented this work with a course 
at the Sternsches Konservatorium in conducting, which 
was rather silly, under a dear old man, von Fielitz, a 
composer whose work I scorned. At the end of the six 
months with Schmidt I had a letter of introduction to 
Otto Lohse at the Cologne Municipal Opera, and I went 
down and was accepted. 

So I left my friends in Berlin and went down to 
Cologne early in I9IO, I think it was in January. I 
was introduced on the empty stage of the opera house, 
and people were very kind but distant, when all of a 
sudden a big six-footer darted at me from the wings and 
held out a greeting hand. He v;as a Middle Western Ameri- 
can who was singing in the hero baritone parts, and we 
became very good friends. 

I fixed myself up in a furnished room after spend- 
ing nearly a week trying to find an apartment that had 
a bathtub in it. I don't mean a room that had its pri- 
vate bath, but a furnished room in an apartment that 
had a bathtub in the house. But no such things were to 
be had. A few new apartments and houses had been built 
in Cologne, and they had modern bathrooms in them^ but 
everybody else went to the public baths. I went myself, 
som.ewhat hesitantly for the first time, and was asked 


whether I wanted a firsts, second, or third-class bath, 
and I said, "First class, of course," when I discovered 
it only cost about one mark. I was shown into a room 
about thirty feet square, with a marble tub off in one 
corner sunk in the floor, almost large enough to be a 
child's swimming pool. [laughter] I had the use of it 
for an hour. 

Cologne v/as about the quietest of provincial Ger- 
man cities that you could imagine. The streets were 
practically deserted by eight o'clock at night. In my 
part of town there were only the small family restaurants, 
as they were called, good enough for lunch, but rather 
disappointing for supper, so I v;ould have to walk down- 
town to get my supper. 

The work was fascinating.-learning how to get around 
backstage, up in the staircases and runways over the 
flies and the drop curtains, and seeing how the cues 
were given for the choruses and orchestra behind the 
scenes, and having the lightning and thunder come at 
the right place. Very shortly I was given the job of 
bringing in the lightning and the thunder in the Freischutz 
of Weber, and I think I never missed a cue there. I 
went on to giving cues for Madame Butterfly and the swan 
in Lohengrin , and eventually helped a little bit with 
the Rhine maidens, but not having absolute pitch, I 


couldn't be up in the upper regions to give them the 
pitch for their cues when they would have to swoop down 
from a height into the range of the spectators, in the 
Rheingold. The noise back of the stage in Rheingold 
was almost deafening. Each Rhine maiden had six men to 
control her movements, one in a grey-brown hood who 
held ropes under her cradle that she swam in, one in 
each wing, and one at the back. There v;ere two more to 
pull the trolleys from one side to the other over the 
rails on top, so that it meant eighteen men for the three 
Rhine maidens, excluding the three chorrepetitors who 
had to give them cues and pitches from various parts of 
the realm.s of the stage. Working in the dark with this 
tremendous clanking going on was really quite exciting. 
I advanced with my responsibility, till finally I was 
given the conducting of some choruses behind the scene, 
I think in Offenbach's Pontes d' Hoffman , and a few other 

Finally, my first disgrace came, bringing in a small 
group of hunting horns. I've forgotten what opera it 
was in. I was supposed to be able to follow the piano 
score, v;hich I didn't know, and bring the minstrels in 
at the proper place. I didn't. 

There was a dead silence, and something in German 
shouted up from the orchestra pit to the effect, "V^Tio's 


in charge of the hunting horns?" 

And they said, "Seeger," so Seeger walked out in 
the middle of the empty stage and got a calling down. 
They said, "What's the matter?" 

I said, "I couldn't hear." 

And he said, "Well, you can see, can't you?" and 
I said, "Yes," so they gave me the electric signals-- 
f our- three-two-one, three- two-three-one-two- two-three- 
one, one-two-three-one, los. [laughter] And they came 
in promptly. But the disgrace was one which put a black 
mark against me. 

The next test was a sudden breathless command one 
night to get into the orchestra pit and play the trian- 
gle in a piece that I didn't know, had never heard be- 
fore. I was dragged down there; something had happened 
to the percussion player, and I was shown the part, and 
the conductor kindly gave me the cue. So I started in. 
Everything went perfectly well until we came to a cut, 
and I wasn't able to find where we cut to, and a friendly 
double bass player next to me leaned over and held my 
hand so I wouldn't play the triangle out of time. 

That stopped my playing in the orchestra. I ob- 
viously did not have the acuity of hearing at that time 
that a performing musicism should. I didn't know it. 
I did some training in roles. I worked to a certain 


extent with my friend the helden baritone^ and there 
was a young American singer v;ho was learning some of 
the minor parts. I also helped her. But the main thing 
were the rehearsals and the performances^ many of them 
with scores. To attend morning and afternoon rehear- 
sals of one of the dramas of the Ring and then sit 
through three or four hours of it in the evening was in 
those days my joy. Lohse was an excellent conductor, 
a fine drillmaster, and had the respect of everybody 
in the opera house as a superb musician. He belonged 
to the school of Karl Muck, who had introduced me to 
fine conducting back in Boston, and I must say that 
the training I got from him was worth the two and a 
half years in Germany, which on the whole were pretty 

The last six months of my stay my friend George 
Poote joined me. His absolute pitch and his acuity of 
hearing, his brilliant piano playing, advanced him 
rather more rapidly than I had been advanced. 

He was a funny chap, and I remember one very amus- 
ing story that he told. The orchestra was stopped at 
a rehearsal one day because the prima donna, who v;as a 
very portly almost grenadier- like lady, who was high 
up on a ladder while a castle was burning, couldn't be 
heard to scream at the proper time. 


The orchestra stopped and Lohse asked, "Can't you 

scream louder?" 

She said, "No, I can't." 

He said, "Well, you've got to." 

She said, "Well, then, send somebody up here to 
pinch me." [laughter] 

So Lohse called out, "Herr Foote! " Foote appeared. 
"Get up on the ladder there and pinch Frau So-and-so." 
[more laughter] So Foote got up on the ladder and pin- 
ched Frau So-and-so. 

The orchestra stopped again, and Lohse said, "What's 
the matter, is that the best you can do?" 

She said, "He didn't pinch hard enough." By this 
time the whole orchestra was in roars of laughter, so 
Lohse said, "Herr Foote, be a man." [laughter] Next 
time, the scream was adequate. I think that was his 
part in that particular opera from then on. 

Let me see what more can be said about this German 
stay. The outstanding experience for me was my first 
love affair, which has to be mentioned here on account 
of the reaction after it, which shows some reasons why 
I turned from music and composition to musicolcgy. The 
day after the most exciting event of the affair, I put 
myself immediately to work, as any artist should, so that 
the full inspiration should be expressed in the music. 


But the full inspiration didn't come out in the music 
at all. It came out in the form of a whole lot of dia- 
grams that interpreted my experience in terms of the 
relationship of what I knew and what I didn't know, and 
of myself to the universe. This kept me in a state of 
high excitement for the next night and the next day, 
and I hardly took time off to eat or to move from my 
desk. The total waking period was three days and two 
nights, which is something of a record as far as I'm 
concerned. On the fourth day, the music began to flow 
comfortably and I wrote a song a day for a week, and 
they were good songs. 

Outside of that experience, I can't really speak 
of much of anything that has any bearing upon my subse- 
quent personal life or my subsequent musicological life. 
The first summer, George Foote, Wheelock and I went down 
to Vienna, Venice, down the Dalmatian Coast, up to the 
capital of Montenegro, down to Corfu, Costa Brindisi, 
had a few weeks in Sorrento, and wound up in Paris, 
where we met Ned Sheldon. We had stayed at the best 
hotels, we traveled first classj whenever we landed from 
a train or a ship, we'd take a taxi to the hotel; we 
had no contact whatever with the people who lived in 
the countries we were visiting. We took some photographs, 
Tfie admired everything from a safe distance, and as I look 


over the trip, it really seems absurd in the light of 
my children's first visits to Europe. My daughter Peggy, 
for instance, gets on a motor scooter, slings a banjo 
and guitar over her back, and motors two thousand miles 
around England, Scotland, and Wales, or rides practically 
over the whole of France and the Netherlands, happens 
to meet a man in a truck who asks her if she'd like to 
go to Berlin with him to play music for a group of Catho- 
lic action dramatists and players, says, "Yes," and so 
she goes. These people see something of the country that 
they're visiting. I saw nothing of the country, except 
what you might see from a National Geographic camera 
viewpoint. The beggars in Naples were horrible. You 
almost fled down the street, because they were posted 
at intervals of about a block apart, exposing the most 
horrible sores and assailing your ears v;ith groans and 
shrieks and holding out these trembling hands for alms. 
The whole trip was a kind of sanitized affair. 

The stay in Paris with Ned Sheldon was perhaps the 
most interesting. Ned had made many friends in the thea- 
ter life of New York by that time. His play. Salvation 
Nell , had made a great success, and so he invited us to 
dinner at the apartment of a charming lady in her thir- 
ties, who was supposed to be the "queen of the demimonde" 
in New York. VJe had a wonderful supper, Sheldon, Foote, 


Wheelock, and myself, and present also was Marie Doro, 
who had a high soprano voice and had sung the bird in 
Siegfried at the Metropolitan, but had made her fame in 
Victor Herbert operettas on Broadv;ay. I had seen her 
in a number of them and had taken quite a fancy to her, 
so that meeting her here was really quite an experience. 
The wine flowed and everybody was very happy, so they 
got me to the piano to play some of my songs, of which 
I whistled the melody. They made a tremendous impres- 
sion, and Marie promptly suggested she had a comic opera 
in mind that would be something better than Victor 
Herbert, more like real music, and thought that perhaps 
she might make the libretto and I might make the music, 
and we might meet at some convenient place in Europe, 
such as Dresden, and go to work on it. That just suited 
me down to the ground, because I could have been half 
in love with her the next minute; and so everything went 
very well and I went off to Dresden. Naturally, she 
never showed up. I forgot to say we went to the theater 
together a couple of times and to dinner, but that was 
the end of that. Presently I got a cable from the charm- 
ing lady who'd given the party, felicitating me on my 
birthday, and I felt that I was beginning to get into 
the gay life. 

The time came around the end of I9IO when I felt 


that I'd gotten all out of Cologne that I could; George 
Foote was tired of it, so we went back to Berlin and I 
got seriously to work on my opera there. I wrote the 
libretto, using Jack Wheelock' s poems on the city which 
he eventually published in his first volume of poems 
for Scribner. I got the first scene done when it oc- 
curred to me that it was about time for me to go back 
to the United States. My first year in Europe was fi- 
nanced by my father, and when the end of the year came, 
he told me that was all. I could come back if I wanted, 
but that was the end. So I borrowed enough for the 
second year from an old family friend, and George Foote 
helped me out for the last six months or so. 

So presently I landed back in New York, a young 
hopeful composer and musician, to make his v;ay in the 
musical life of the city. I had good letters of intro- 
duction all around, and things began to happen in rapid 
fire. I got some accompanying work for a singer pretty 
soon, and seven of my songs were a.ccepted by Schirmer 
for publication. The enthusiasm of the publishers was 
enough to turn my head, and it did. Kurt Schindler, who 
was the reader, paid me a call the day after I had handed 
the things in, at my little hall bedroom dovm on Madi- 
son Avenue and 33rd Street, hailing me as the future 
composer of America. They arranged for some performances. 


and I had already met some singers who began to learn 

I had a letter to one of the directors of the Metro- 
politan Opera^ Otto Kahn, who received me in his apart- 
ment at a kind of levee where he was served breakfast by 
his butler. I had a letter from him to [Giulio] Gatti- 
Casazza, the director of the Metropolitan, whom I called 
on the next day. When Gatti found that I didn't k^ow 
Italian except in a very distant way and had no French 
or German to speak of ^ he pointed out to me that entrance 
to work in the Metropolitan depended more upon knowledge 
of the language than knowledge of the music. So I didn't 
gain any advantage there. 

About six weeks after I landed, an old friend of 
my mother's, Mildred Sawyer, the wife of Philip Sawyer 
the architect, who had invited me to her house several 
times, had me to lunch one day to meet a young violinist. 
She was a very pretty girl, and it was quite obvious the 
reason why Mrs. Sawyer had invited us to have lunch with 
her. Lunch took a little time to get ready and I was 
asked to play some of my songs, so I sat down at the 
piano and whistled the voice part^ it was like music 
they'd never heard before, and they thought it was as- 
tonishingly new and revolutionary and all that. It was 
really quite respectable in terms of contemporary French 


music but they didn't know that, and so I basked in the 
sunshine of the unusual. 

Lunch proceeded happily, and then it came time for 
Miss Edson to leave. We took Miss Edson down to the 
front door and closed the door on her, and then I said 
to Mrs. Sawyer, "it isn't very cavalier to let her go 
home alone." 

Mrs, Sawyer said, "Well why don't you run after 
her and offer to escort her?" 

So I did. The result was that Miss Edson was look- 
ing for an accompanist, which was what Mrs. Sawyer knew; 
I had already played some Handel sonatas with Miss Edson, 
and we got along famously. 

Constance de Clyver Edson was the daughter of an 
impoverished New York family, whose maternal grandfather 
had been the principal of the most fashionable school in 
the city, with several big buildings on 59th Street where 
the Plaza Hotel now stands. An uncle had been mayor of 
the city. Her father, who was an Annapolis man and was 
also a medical doctor, had gone to pieces as a result of 
two terrible experiences: one was marrying Constance's 
mother, and the other was being an officer on a converted 
yacht of J. P. Morgan's that fought the Spanish fleet as 
it was trying to escape from Santiago de Cuba in the 
Spanish-American War. The gunners were missing a Spanish 


torpedo boat, and Dr. Edson brushed them aside, aimed 
the gun, and sank the ship. But the sight of the men 
struggling in the water and being left behind by every- 
body — nobody tried to save them--unnerved him., and he 
never got over it. Living with Constance's mother x^as, 
to put it mildly, an earthly hell. She was extravagant, 
she was tempestuous; he was a mild, gentle man; and the 
result was, when I met Constance, Dr. Edson had retired 
to Sailors Snug Harbor, where he died some years later. 
Mrs. Edson was very much in evidence. 

Constance had been engaged to a wealthy young New 
York musical amateur the year before, but the engagement 
had been broken. She had had some psychological diffi- 
culties during her very difficult life, and at the time 
I met her was recovering from a pretty low state of de- 
pression. We started rehearsing at once, and after six 
weeks we were engaged. 

At this time in the spring of 1911^ my mother and 
sister had to flee from the revolution in Mexico. When 
the bullets began falling in the bathroom window, my 
father thought it was about time to get them out of the 
country, so they and seven trunks of our most precious 
ancestral heirlooms were put onto the last train which 
went to Vera Cruz, and put on the Merida of the Ward Line 
for them to go to New York. 


So, at the proper time (I've forgotten what day it 
was--some time in April, I think it was April eleventh) , 
I called up the Ward Line to find out v/hen the ship was 
going to dock and was greeted with a cheerful voice, 
"She ain't going to dock. She's sunk." 

I said, "VJell, how about the passengers?" 

"Oh," he said, "it was at night, and they wrapped 
themselves in blankets, and they were all saved. They're 
on their way from Norfolk, and they'll all get into the 
Pennsylvania Station" (this was over in Hoboken) "at such 
and such a time." 

So I went down there and met Mother and Sister. 
They were dressed in what the Ward Line had been able 
to scrabble together for them, and all the trunks had 
gone down to the bottom of the sea, where they still are, 
with the beautiful Spanish lace mantillas that my mother 
bought for each of her daughters-in-lav;, much of the an- 
cestral silver, my Harvard diploma, and a number of other 
valuable things. 

Constance v:as introduced to my mother and sister in 
due time, and they approved, and then I began a tour of 
New England with Constance, giving concerts at various 
fashionable seaside and country resorts that she had 
arranged during the previous winter. It took us from 
Cape Cod to Lennox to Bar Harbour, and a couple of other 


places, and we came back with enough money to set up 
two apartments down in the East Thirties, connected with 
a clothesline on two pulleys out the windows by which 
we could send notes to each other from my back windows 
to her back windows. 

We began a winter of teaching. She furnished a 
very pretty apartment, and I didn't pretend to occupy 
anything but a furnished room. I went out for most of 
my lessons to the places of the people whom I was teach- 
ing, and she taught in her own little apartment. We 
gave concerts in various places around the city. Several 
people were singing my songs. The highlight of it was 
Alma Gluck singing two of them in Carnegie Hall. 

A few days later, I was in the MacDowell Club, 
which was the musicians' club there, having tea with 
some people, when somebody came in and said, "Madame 
Gluck is outside and wants to meet you. Won't you come 

My answer was, "If she wants to meet me, she can 
come in." 

You can imagine the result. Madame Gluck did not 
sing my songs any longer. That was about my idea of the 
way a promising young composer should behave. 

Well, things v;ent very well. I remember one of 
Constance's and my series of recitals was in the house 


of a well-to-do family in the East Eighties just off 
Fifth Avenue, where we played a fifty-minute program 
once a week for the thirteen-year-old daughter of the 
house and a few of her friends. They were not present 
in the room. They listened downstairs, and we played 
in the drawing room, which was empty. We were given 
dinners all over town by Constance's friends and my 
friends, my family's friends; most of them were pretty 
well-to-do, I might say. 

Everything went very well until I announced to my 
family that we were going to be married on December 22, 
1911. I was 25, and my mother thought I was too young, 
and my father thought I wasn't earning enough money to 
get m.arried; but they couldn't do anything about it, so 
they very graciously attended the wedding. We set up 
housekeeping in Constance's apartment. Everything went 

One day I received a message to receive a gentleman. 
The card presented President Ide Wheeler, of 
the University of California at Berkeley; the dignified 
man in a frock coat came up. We gave him tea, and he 
told us that he had a position of professor of music 
open, and that my name had been recommended by the depart- 
ment at Harvard. So we talked, and later on, I think the 
next day, I had dinner with him at the old Waldorf-Astoria. 


which was torn down to build the Empire State Building. 
The result was that the deal was closed, subject only 
to the approval of the Regents, which I was given to 
understand was automatic. Knowing Benjamin Ide Wheeler 
later, it was automatic. He ran the faculty and the 
Regents, as far as I could see, pretty much off his cuff. 

I hadn't the slightest idea of having any interest 
in being a professor, but it offered us more money than 
we were earning in New York at the time. I thought I 
might last a year or two, and by that time we could have 
our first child and we would have made some connections 
by which I could advance more rapidly even than I had to 
higher levels in the music profession. You can see how 
things vrere going with me. In the course of less than 
a year, I had advanced as rapidly as I thought my value 
to music in America deserved! 

Just before I left for Berkeley, Constance and I 
were entertained at a large dinner party by an old friend 
of my mother's and father's, George Plimpton, who was 
head of Ginn and Company and had, at the time, I might 
say, supposedly the biggest collection of books on mathe- 
matics in the world. There were twenty or thirty people 
at the dinner, and I was sitting next to Lady Murray, 
whose husband. Sir Gilbert, the distinguished British 
scholar, had been m.ade a full professor in either Oxford 


or Cambridge^ I've forgotten which, when he was 27. Here 
I was 26, and I remember Mr. Plimpton taking great pleas- 
ure in informing the lady that I was a full professor 
at 26. [laughter] She was somewhat flabbergasted, and 
you can imagine that for the rest of the dinner she was 
rather stiff. 

Well, we went with our goods and chattels, some 
lovely antique furniture that Mrs. Edson had somehow 
acquired, that had interestingly enough formerly been 
in the old Apthorp House in which I roomed at Harvard, 
which was one of the great houses of Cambridge in those 
days. General Burgoyne had supposedly been held captive 
in it. We shortly rented a very pretty house on La Loma 
Avenue and set up housekeeping. 

I don't know that there's anything much to say about 
this period between graduating from college and landing 
in the professorship of music in an American university. 
It was a perfectly absurd situation. The president was 
acting in extremis; he could not find anybody to take 
that job. [laughter] The position had been wished on 
him (I don't think the faculty wanted it) by the California 
Legislature, which had set up the professorship of music 
more or less as an appendage of the Department of Agricul- 
ture. The stipend was $3,000 a year, which was considered 
very good for a professor in those days. My first meeting 


with my colleagues disclosed the fact that there were 
people over twice my age who were still associate pro- 
fessors. There was no full professor within hailing 
distance of 26. This stimulated my feeling that Charles 
Seeger was really something quite unusual, and I showed 
up for my first class after having been introduced around 
to the academic circles, mostly humanities, and invited 
up to the Eohem.ian Club High Jinx and a fev/ other things. 

I felt so sure of myself that I went to ray first 
lecture without any preparation whatever. I found out 
after twenty minutes I had nothing more to say, so I 
dismissed the class. I'd never opened a book on the 
history of music. I had no interest in It. I thought 
anybody who bothered about the history of music was just 
simply a second-rate musician, and there wasn't any use 
of my bothering about it. But I realized I was in a 
jam here, and I would have to talk about the history of 
music. Fortunately in the library there were a couple 
of dozen books on music, mostly elementary textoooks, 
and a small collection of Spanish music that had been 
given by a well-to-do man of Spanish origin in San 
Francisco named Cebrian. I got Waldo Selden Pratt's 
History of Music out of the bookcase which my wife had 
and a couple of others in German from the library, and in 
my second lecture I was able to discourse learnedly upon 


Greek music and Early Christian music. I didn't lack 
things to talk about for the rest of the year. 

The courses in harmony and counterpoint v/ere not 
enormous. They were given in the old hall of the YMCA 
at one and two o'clock, or two and three o'clock, I've 
forgotten which, right after the hall had been cleared 
of the cafeteria dishes and while they were being washed 
in the kitchen. There was only a broken-down old piano, 
but I had ordered a blackboard. So the harmony lessons 

I had so many students that I needed a reader, and 
a young man named Edward Stricklen was recommended. 
Stricklen turned out to be a red-headed Irishman, who 
had written the music for a Bohemian Club High Jinx show 
a year or two before, which was very much admired. It 
was a kind of Broadway light-opera music, and I looked 
the score over and ticketed Stricklen. Stricklen was, 
however, a serious musician, although he was a very pecu- 
liar one. He served excellently as my reader, and we got 
to talking about harmony and how unsatisfied we were with 
the textbooks I was using, so we decided to make our 
own textbook, which we did [ Harmonic Structure and Ele - 
mentary Composition , I916]. We printed it privately 
and used it the second and third year. 

I should say m.y first boy [Charles Louis] was born 


in September of that year--that was just about after I 
had begun teaching, in October--and it had an effect on 
me which I should register here because it ties in with 
several of the things that I've spoken of before. 

I had always been a fairly strapping kind of fellow, 
and in the built-up clothes of those days with padded 
shoulders, I could walk around the streets of any Euro- 
pean city apparently with a charmed life. I remember 
telling somebody in Cologne how nice it was to wander 
around those deserted streets at night; when he told me 
in real solicitude, "But of course you never go down be- 
tween the Domstrasse and the river," I said, "Oh, I go 
down there almost every night." 

He said, "Man alive, you have a charmed life. That's 
the roughest part of town, and no sensible man ever goes 
into it at night." 

I'd never been bothered, but I was pretty large for 
a German, and although my weight and size belied my strength, 
at least I never was bothered. But I'd always had a 
deadly fear that I would die before I had a child, and 
that led me to be rather hesitant to venture off into 
the woods or the mountains at night. City streets didn't 
bother me, because nobody' d ever bothered me on the street; 
I thought they only bothered little people. 

But I remember the night after my first son was born. 


I set right off from our little house, which was one of 
the last before the empty Berkeley hills began, and I 
walked all ever the tops of the mountains for about four 
hours with perfect security, in spite of the fact that 
it was not considered the thing to do, I discovered af- 
terwards, by respectable Berkeleyans. There were said 
to be wild dogs, and there were supposed to be other 
things. I don't know what there could have been up there, 
but they didn't bother me, and I never had any fear of 
the dark places after that. I was perhaps a little more 
cautious about going into the less well-protected parts 
of town, but that was not so much an emotional thing as 
just ordinary prudence. 

Well, toward the end of my first year in Berkeley, 
or I might say before the end of that year, I had become 
keenly aware of my own deficiencies in general education. 
I had met, fortunately, a young man [Herbert E. Cory] a 
year or two older than I was, from Brown, who was an in- 
structor or an assistant professor, I've forgotten which, 
in English, and who aspired to be a poet, just as I 
aspired to be a composer. We found ourselves both of us 
teaching in a university. He was a swarthy, dark- 
complected fellow, who rarely appeared on the campus without 
nine or ten books under his arm. He had an ability to 
read a fat volume of any kind in an evening and give me 


a digest of it the next morning. Talking over our mutual 
situation together^ we decided that we both of us were 
comparatively uneducated, although he was a much better 
educated man than I was, and it behooved us to go around 
and learn something about anthropology and psychology and 
biology and logic and some of the Oriental literatures. 

So we pitched right in, and I can even nov; remember 
with some pleasure the dismay on my colleagues' faces 
when I would show up and ask them if I could attend their 
seminar in symbolic logic, the Veda, or industrial rela- 
tions or something of that sort. Cory and I went together 
to most of these, and he would dig right into the reading, 
and I would do what I could, reading much more s lovely; 
but he was my guide, and if he gave me a glowing account 
of some book, then I would read it. 

One day we were sitting in the meeting of the aca- 
demic senate and out of a dead silence came a motion to 
the effect that no student in the University of California 
would be awarded the bachelor's degree until he had sup- 
ported himself with the labor of his hands for one year. 
The silence afterwards was deader than before. 

No second. The president asked, "Is there a second?" 
and nobody piped up. 

"Well," I thought to myself, "this is a wonderful 
idea; I think we should certainly go into this." So I 


seconded it. 

The man v;ho proposed it was an inconspicuous little 
fellow, whom I'd never noticed before in m.y high-handed 
way, and so he and I were put on a committee of five, 
the other three being safe, respectable men who'd be 
sure to put the quietus on this crazy idea. 

Well, we met and did our best, but that was the 
end of it. The proposer was none other than [A. L. ] 
Kroeber, who later distinguished himself as an anthro- 
pologist, and we got to know each other fairly well, and 
through him, Robert [H. ] Lowie, who was also there at the 
same time. I attended seminars with both of them. In 
fact, what grounding I have in anthropology I owe to 

At the end of my first year, along in April or so, 
I went to the president one day (I never bothered with 
deans, just went straight to the president) and inadver- 
tently let slip, "Well, next year we must do such and 
such a thing." 

The president looked up and said, "I don't know 
whether there's going to be a next year." 

"Well," I said, "don't you think we'd better decide?" 
and so I got up and left the room. 

I never said a word of this to my wife or anybody 
else or said a v;ord to the president, until one day he 


called me in and very graciously said that there would 
be a second year. 

By that time I had planned a summer session, and 
the summer session was about to begin. My real work 
in the Departm.ent of Music in Berkeley rather began 
from that time. 


OCTOBER 13, 1966 

TUSLER: In connection with the remarks you began to make 
last time about teaching music at Berkeley, do I under- 
stand you correctly that there was no Music Department 
there when you began? 

SEEGER: There was no Music Department there v;hen I ar- 
rived. My predecessor, who was the first professor of 
music in Berkeley, was John Frederick Wolle, who had made 
a name for himself conducting the Bach Choir Festival in 
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I think all during the time he 
was at Berkeley he continued holding the festival. He 
was a quiet, rather unaggressive man, a charming little 
fellow (I met him later) and he had given some courses 
and put a few elementary textbooks in the library. My 
information was that he left only two students, and then 
while he took his sabbatical (he had been there six years), 
nothing happened, so that when I took over, I had to 
begin entirely afresh. 

TUSLER: Ivhen we stopped last time you were just begin- 
ning to describe to me the circumstances of your staying 
for the second year. 

SEEGER: Oh, yes. My first summer session at the Univer- 
sity of California in Berkeley (that was 1913)^ I realized 


would either establish my position there or I would pro- 
bably not be reappointed at the end of the second year, 
so I decided I must make an effort to be a good profes- 
sor. I planned the two courses very carefully, and they 
were given in the old administration auditorium. The 
audience was pretty good. The History of Music was the 
main course and had the largest audience--! think the 
room was filled. I was able to arrange for good illus- 
trations all down the line and, amusingly enough, thought 
that in connection with the history of music, I should 
have a session on folk music. This was quite unusual in 
courses of this sort at the time, but had been initiated 
by Henderson, a critic for a New York paper at the Insti- 
tute of Musical Art in that city. 

Fortunately, one of Henderson's former illustrators, 
Lucia Dunham, had moved to Berkeley with her husband v;ho 
was a businessman and was a friend of my wife's. She 
was engaged to illustrate the singing aspects of the 
course and volunteered to sing me a folk-song program. 
We worked up a program of folk songs in seventeen different 
languages from all over the world; not very well knowing 
what a folk song was, we sometimes slopped over into the 
popular domain, and I think there may have been one or 
two primitive items on the program. She received coaching 
from the specialists in the various languages, some of 


them reaching back to dead languages. On the folk-song 
program we had songs of the troubadours and trouveres 
and Meistersingers and rainisingers, who were anything 
but folk singers. They were skilled professional or 
semiprofesslcnal singers and composers, but I didn't 
know that at the time. At any rate, it was customary 
to regard them as folk singers at that time. 

When it came to songs from present-day Greece, there 
was nobody in the faculty viho could tell Mrs. Dunham how 
to sing modern Greek. But the professor of Greek said, 
"There is a peanut vendor on the corner of Telegraph Ave- 
nue and Bancroft, and I feel sure that he can tell you 
how to pronounce this song." So we went down to the 
peanut vendor, and as soon as we sang him the song (he 
couldn't read notes) he said, "Oh, yes, I know that song," 
and gave us the pronunciation in contemporary Greek. He 
was a Greek emigrant. 

The summer program was a tremendous success, and I 
remember very v/armly being congratulated by Professor 
Rieber, who was one of the members of the committee on 
musical instruction, that he liked a man who put up a 
good fight. So I felt at the end of the summer that I 
was pretty well established, and I think I was. 

There were several rather amusing angles to that 
summer session. Most of the music courses that had been 


given in summer sessions were given entirely independent- 
ly, not only of ray predecessor VJolle, but entirely inde- 
pendently of the new Music Department that was set up 
under my direction. I was informed that this was a high- 
ly successful summer music program; it had nothing to 
do with the academic program whatever, but was considered 
a kind of missionary job of the jacking up of the quality 
of the music instruction in the California public scools 
and was widely attended by the public school teachers 
who wanted to know a little something about what they 
were doing, or were supposed to be doing. The direction 
was under a lady whose marae was Mrs. [Lauretta V.] Sweesy, 
so I didn't bother about that end of things; I considered 
music in schools to be beneath the notice of my high pro- 
fessorial dignity, and remembered that it was even be- 
low my high third-grade dignity when I refused to sing 
out of the song book we had at that time in the Staten 
Island Academy. 

So 1 didn't bother about many of the arrangements 
which all went through as usual, but I made a point of 
appearing at eight o'clock the first morning of the 
session in the foyer of the Hearst Mining Building where 
the music courses were given in the summer. I saw on 
the tables there a broad display of popular music maga- 
zines, such as the Etude , Musical America , Musical Courier , 


and so forth and so on. As I was being shown around by- 
Mrs. Sweesy, who was all politeness and consideration, 
[I asked] ^ "Where do these sheets come from?" 

She said, "Oh, the publishers give them to us for 
free distribution to our pupils every year. It's one 
of the most valuable assets of our work." 

And I said, "Please see that by tomorrow morning 
there's not a sign of any of them in this room," and 
walked out the door. [laughter] You can imagine the 
consternation, but there were no more of them. 

I had a hundred-and-twenty -voice chorus to conduct, 
and I used it to illustrate the history of music course 
by having them sing the early choral music of Europe 
from the ninth century organum on up to, I think, a Bach 
chorale or maybe something of Brahms. 

I had a plan to give in the Greek Theatre Gluck's 
Orfeo . I still think it's a natural for the Greek Thea- 
tre there. Fortunately, the famous singer Schumann-Heink 
had bought a place on top of a hill outside of San Diego, 
and one of her great roles was singing the part of Orfeo. 
I had invited my friend George Foote out to give a course 
in piano technique for the summer session, and he and I 
went down to see Schumann-Heink. We arrived after supper 
on a cold night, driving up the winding road to her hill- 
top house. She was there with some of her grandchildren 


and children and was most affable, and said she would 
be delighted to do this. It was too late, however, in 
the year to manage all the engagements for the other 
parts, and Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who was William 
Randolph Hearst's mother and lived back of Berkeley in 
the hills, whom we had hoped would put up the money be- 
cause she was a great fan of Schumann-Heink' s, didn't 
feel like risking the money. I think they thought that 
I was a pretty young man to be undertaking such an am- 
bitious job as training a summer-session chorus to do 
the choruses by heart, get them trained and stage-managed 
with all the problems of lighting and orchestra and so 
forth in the short month or so. So the thing fell through, 

Now let me see if there's anything more about that 
summer session that is worth mentioning. I think not. 
There was, however, probably performed for the first 
time in California, organum, conductus, motets of Machaut, 
short excerpts from the masses of Dufay, Josquin, Lassus, 
Victoria, Palestrina, and at the other end of the summer's 
instruction, that was the last day or two, a performance 
of early Schoenberg, Debussy, Scriabin, and I think some 
Stravinsky, though I may be wrong about the Stravinsky-- 
that might have come a year or two later. 

My second year at Berkeley had a well-rounded 


announcement of courses, and these attracted eight or 
ten, perhaps a dozen, fairly serious students, who be- 
gan with diatonic harmony, which we mixed alternate 
days with counterpoint and used Stridden' s and my 

TUSLER: What was the status of the department at this 
time? Could a student get a degree in music then? 
SEEGER: There were no arrangements at the time for any- 
thing beyond the course instructions which I outlined. 
I'd have to have an announcement of courses for the year 
to refresh my memory on what I actually announced in 
the fall of 1913' I think I announced courses that were 
not expected to be given, because there were no students 
that were qualified to take them, but I think I announced 
them in order to show students that there was to be a 
coui'se of study of four years and it would take them about 
half of their time, their study time, to go through it 
in order to get the degree. I think this was before the 
days of majoring and minor ing. 

The prospect of having a capable assistant in the 
form of Edward Stricklen and a teacher of singing, George 
Bowden, an English university man who was a good teacher 
and could handle a fairly large class, made me feel that 
I was well launched in a serious undertaking. By this 


time I had become very much Interested in staying at 
the University and making a lifework of academic teach- 
ing. Everything was rosy, the prospects and the work 
also. I had already launched v;ith my wife a series of 
University Recitals of chamber music patterned after 
Arthur Whiting's university recitals that were given 
in the Ivy League universities in the East and in which 
my wife had been a participant from time to time. The 
concerts were moderately well attended. I think they 
were given in a hall that has now been torn down. A 
small and loyal audience came year after year throughout 
the remaining five years that I was at the University. 
We engaged local talent. The University had bought us 
two Steinway Model B grand pianos; we had a small amount 
of money for fees, and there were enough serious musicians 
to take the trouble to work out the compositions that I 
wanted to have played, such as cantatas of Bach and 
Couperin, Rameau, and some of the then very little known 
early violin, early chamber music and choral work of the 
seventeenth century. 

The most memorable event of the fall of I913 was a 
call one day from a man who told me his name was Harry 
Cowell, who had a son, aged I5, that he wanted to have 
take serious lesslons in composition from the best teacher 


he could find in the Bay area. Harry Cowell brought 
along his son Henry, who was a very pretty and engaging 
young man of 15 , scarcely more than a boy^, who sat down 
at the piano and put on the rack Opus 108. I was duly 
impressed. Then he started to work with fists , forearms, 
and elbows on a little upright piano that I had in the 
second house that I moved to, up La Loma Avenue a block 
from the first house. I was delighted with the man, 
asked him if he knew anything about contemporary music, 
and he didn't; so I showed him some of the early Schoen- 
berg. Opus 11, Opus 19; the Opus 7^ of Scriabin; and 
some early work of Stravinsky. We imm.ediately hit it 
off, and Harry decided that the person for Henry to study 
with in the Bay region was me. 

We talked over the situation, and I gave him three 
alternatives: one was to give up all composition for a 
while and simply study the orthodox routine of harmony 
and counterpoint; another was to keep perfectly clear of 
academic instruction, pay no attention to it whatever, 
and simply study contemporary composers and write original 
music as fast as it could be written; and the third al- 
terna.tive was to mix the two. The mixture choice seemed 
best to me, and I think best to both Henry and his father. 
30 it was arranged that since we had no expert teacher of 


strict counterpoint (both Stricklen and I had the con- 
temporary bowdlerized version of counterpoint of the 
late nineteenth century) he would study with a local 
English musician who had gone through the Fux school, 
would take his harmiony and other music courses as a 
special student in the University of California for which 
we got the permission from the University, and then 
once a week he would come to me on Thursday afternoons 
and we would explore the potentialities of what was then 
considered "modern music." 

The scheme worked beautifully. Stricklen was an 
excellent harmony teacher and the Britisher whose name 
I may remember presently was an excellent teacher. Henry's 
and my sessions with modern music began at about twelve 
or one o'clock and lasted sometimes to one o'clock at 
night. I remember one night, it lasted all night long 
and we wound up at a hotdog stand in Oakland. There were 
no phonograph records at that time, you have to remember; 
what scores were available were in my library. Henry was 
an excellent musician, a born musician. He had had some 
lessons on the violin, some lessons on the piano, and 
that's about all. 

His father had left his mother when he was quite 
young. I think they were living on a Kansas farm at the 


time. Harry Cowell, the father, came of illustrious 
lineage in England and Ireland, connected with nobility 
on one side. I remember a governor general of Canada 
was closely related to Henry at one time, and Henry 
went up to visit him. Henry's grandfather had inherited 
a big estate in Ireland with one of the old stone towers 
on it, but his immediate family had lost most of the 
money that they had had, and Henry's father had become 
a wanderer. He was a dilettante, something of a poet, 
something of a writer, and had wandered from job to job. 
He was a tennis expert--in fact, he was the teacher of 
Helen Wills [Moody] who was eventually women's terinis 
champion, but he never could keep anything going very 
long, so that Henry was brought up in pretty terrible 
poverty. At the time that he came to me, he was living 
with his invalid mother in Menlo Park, I think, in some 
kind of a little cottage. Professor [Samuel S.] Sev/ard 
of Stanford and some other people had become interested 
in Henry and got together enough money to pay his rail- 
road fare and living for him and his mother while he 
studied at Berkeley. 

Henry had had six weeks of schooling. At the end 
of six weeks in the first grade, he decided he didn't 
like school and he never went back. His mother taught 
him. He read a great deal, and he was pretty busy taking 


care cf his invalid mother, tending pigs and collecting 
orchids. I think there's an orchid named after him. 
He stayed three and a half years with me taking all 
the music courses, coaching some of the students, and 
was finally drafted in the Army in the First World War. 
I'll just finish up this aspect of Henry Cowell's study 
with me, because he was my first brilliant student. 

He was an unwashed little specimen. I don't think 
his clothes ever went to the cleaner. In fact, one time 
the girls in the Music Department came to me and said 
they didn't like to speak about it, but couldn't I do 
something about Henry's taking a bath? I said I'd try, 
but it didn't seem to have any results. 

"Well," they said, "Will you leave it to us?" 
I said, "Yes, OK, if you can do anything." 
The Music Department, which was then giving quite 
a number of courses, was housed in its second old house. 
Just east of where the Women's Faculty Club now stands 
on the edge of the creek--there was a bridge over the 
creek there; it's all been filled in now. There was a 
bathroom upstairs, and since the furnace was sometimes 
put on, there was hot water. So they got some tov/els 
and a cake of soap, and they took him upstairs and they 
pointed to the bathtub and they said, "Henry, take a bath, 
[laughter] VJe've got the key and we're going to lock you 


in. " Well, he came out all washed. 

In the Army, he was put into the kitchen, and it 
was pretty rough. I was able to get Henry transferred 
to a band, where he had not only practice in conducting 
but in learning instruments. 

After he'd been studying with me for a couple of 
years he brought me a symphony. It had a rather nice 
scherzo, ^^^hich had one note in it I thought really should 
be changed. I'd never asked Henry to change a note. 
That was not my function. My function was to develop 
his ease, speed, versatility, and daring in composition. 
So I suggested, "You ought to change that note. Instead 
of an A-flat it should be a B-flat," or something of 
that sort . 

He wouldn't do it, which was what I expected. He 
was a good autodidact. In fact, I've found that my best 
pupils have to be autodidacts. If they're not, they 
don't interest me. About thirty years afterwards, Henry 
came to me one day and he said, "You know, Charlie, that 
note you wanted me to change in that scherzo of mine-- 
you were right." I never felt so much that I was wrong, 

The other members of the eight or ten good students 
that came to me in I913 were two-thirds girls and one- 


third boys. They simmered down in the course of three 
years to four girls and tv;o boys, as well as I remember. 
They none of them had any talent in composition. The 
girls went in for music teaching. One of the boys was 
Glen Haydon, who became eventually a professor in Berkeley 
and some time in the '30's, I think, went to the Univer- 
sity of North Carolina as head of the Music Department 
there. He died about a year ago, but I had the satisfac- 
tion of writing the foreword to a festschrift that his 
colleagues had gotten together for him that will be 
published any day now.* The other young man, Russick, 
became one of the prominent members in the Music Educators' 
National Conference and supervisor of music, I think, in 
the schools in Cincinnati. He has also died. 

The students were good students. They worked hard 
and took some rather unusual courses. History of Music, 
I decided, was not a freshman, sophomore, even junior 
year subject. It was a graduate subject. But owing to 
the requirements for teachers' certificates and that sort 
of thing, I managed to salve my conscience and give a 
course in the history of music in the junior year. The 
course for the senior year that they all took was Introduc- 
tion to Musicology, as Glen Haydon has put on record in 

^Studies Tn Musicology (Chapel Hill, I969) . 


his bookj the Introduction to Musicology . This was ap- 
parently the first course in musicology given in the 
United States. Apart from those two courses which I 
gave myself, I had a course in counterpoint in the junior 
year and in free composition in the senior year. 

One of the disciplines in counterpoint was a scheme 
that I had worked up for teaching Henry Cowell. It was 
a course in dissonant counterpoint, a complete topsy- 
turvy approach to counterpoint in which one prepared 
consonance and resolved consonance with dissonance in- 
stead of the reverse. Species One was entirely dissonant-- 
that is, in two parts the only intervals permitted were 
seconds, sevenths, ninths and tritones; octaves, thirds, 
sixths, fifths, and fourths vj-ere forbidden. The counter- 
point was prepared by a discipline in dissonant melody 
writing: that was writing melodies in which the skips 
were either dissonant skips or else, as I said in those 
days, dissonated very promptly--that is, if it was a skip 
of the major third, there would be after it a dissonance 
with one of the components of the major third. If it 
went C-E, the following tone could be C-sharp or D-flat, 
D-sharp or E-flat, B or B-flat, either at a seconds or 
a sevenths or ninths interval. The concept of dissonance 
was extended to rhythm, and no successions of two equal 
beats could be followed by a succession of two equal beats. 


The Idea was to make a rhythmic flow which went from a 
doublet into a triplet and from a triplet perhaps back 
to a doublet, but more dissonantly into a quintuplet 
or a quadruplet. I had a syllabus for this course, but 
unfortunately, all copies were burned up in the big fire 
in Berkeley, which burned up all my records of the Berke- 
ley period, for I had left them in a small house down on 
Euclid Avenue and the flames burned everything within 
blocks of it. Later on, in his studies abroad, Henry 
Cowell swears that he saw a copy on the desks of both 
Schoenberg and Hindemith. I know I sent copies to them, 
but that they were on the piano or desk of Schoenberg or 
Hindemith we have to leave to Henry Cowell. 
TUSLER: What was the reaction of this kind of counter- 

SEEGER: Whose reaction? 
TUSLER: The students'? 

SEEGER: The students took it like lambs. They did their 
best. They had to in those days, because there was no 
opposing Professor Seeger. When he said you should do 
something, you did it. It wasn't even an "or else." It 
takes a very young man sometimes to act that way, but I 
was positive I was right. 

The thing that impressed me at this time in Berkeley, 
in the year 1913-191'^j ^''a-s my own ignorance and the almost 


appalling knowledge, ability, and skill of my colleagues 
in other departments. When I was working up my history 
of music course, which I had two years to work on before 
I gave it, I realized that something was wrong with the 
textbooks that had to be used, and even the sources that 
had to be used. By this time I had begun to be aware 
that there were sources. At first, I'd thought there 
were only textbooks. So I acquired some of them through 
the library, and by diligent and somewhat militant prac- 
tices persuaded the library to begin to build a music 
section. What I insisted upon was a beginning of the 
collection of the complete works of the great composers, 
and I started in with three, with a possible fourth--Pale- 
strina. Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Brahms we had to 
pick up in the form of sheet music. They thought 1 was 
pretty crazy, but I said, "How many com.plete works of 
Shakespeare do you have?" Well, I've forgotten what the 
answer vfas, but it was up in the dozens or hundreds, and 
they didn't have a single complete set of Beethoven or 
any other great composer. So I had my way. I also was 
able to get a complete set of the published papers of 
the Royal Music Association, some of the works of the 
great German historians, and the Oxford History of Music, 
which was about the best thing in English at the time, and 
so forth. 


But as I looked at these books on the history of 
music, I realized that they all stopped about the time 
I thought that music began to be showing some signs of 
life, and there must be something wrong with these his- 
torians that couldn't bring the history of music up to 
later than I80O. Fortunately, I ran into Frederick 
Teggart, who was a professor of history, and we liked 
each other, so I began to go around to his seminar. My 
friend Cory accompanied me. There I began to get the 
ideas of modern history writing. Teggart was right in 
the middle of drafting his first book on the theory of 
history as process, and I took it to heart very seriously 
and began to try to find out what was the history of 
the music process. 

At the same time, I began to be skeptical about 
the meanings of the words we were using. Different au- 
thors whose books I read seemed to use words in different 
senses, especially words such as rhythm and m.eter and 
harmony and melody and so forth--all the common words 
used and supposed to be music technical terms. I had 
been brought up at Harvard on the old nineteenth-century 
"elements of music" philosophy and I decided that what 
they called elem.ents of music weren't elements of music 
at all, that they were simply misnomers in language that 
misrepresented music. So I began to go around to the 


philosophers to find out what words meant-- [George P.] 
Adams and [Clarence I.] Lewis and [Jacob] Loewenberg 
(he was in my class at Harvard and was an instructor 
there in the Philosophy Department). I went to the semi- 
nars and discovered that words could be used with precise 
meanings, v/hich I'd never bothered about before. As long 
as a word had a lot of vague meanings, that was sufficient 
for me. The more vague they were, the better. Now I was 
looking for precise meanings. 

This led me over also into the question of this 
thing they call "science." Well, science was doing a 
lot about music. It v;as designing concert halls and in- 
struments, analyzing the sounds that we call musical 
sounds, and there v;ere beginning to be psychologies of 
music. So I had to look into all of these, and dis- 
covering presently that their methods differed a good 
deal, I was finally face to face with a method of science. 
I fortunately had to hand Pearson's Grammar of Science , 
which became my Bible for the next few years. I went 
all out for science. 

At the same time, I was very keenly critical of the 
people who wrote about music and especially people who 
wrote about the new compositions and the concerts; they 
were v/riting about value, and they knew nothing about 
value; they'd never studied anything about value, and they 


didn't know anything about the history of criticism. 
They were a hunch of rascals who were drinking the life- 
blood of music and distorting the image of music in the 
public's eye. My success in finding out something about 
value was much slower. There was no grammar of criti- 
cism, such as a grammar of science, and I had to bone 
it out mostly for myself. Arthur [U. ] Pope, who was 
then the assistant professor of philosophy, was an aesthe- 
tician and I went around to his classes and lectures, 
but I couldn't take aesthetics, ^flh&t he called "the 
philosophy of the beautiful" was all right in itself, 
but as I said, music is not all beautiful. Some of it 
isn't beautiful, and I was left pretty much high and 
dry there. 

One day (I've forgotten how it happened, or the 
exact year; it might have been later than I think) in a 
summer session, a professor from. Harvard named Ralph 
Barton Perry ^vas advertised to give a lecture in Wheeler 
Hall on the general theory of value. I said, "Aha, this 
is my meat." He was a youngish man, a little older than 
I, so I went to his first lecture. The old administration 
building auditorium held something like two hundred and 
fifty people, I think, and there was a mass of people 
outside, three times what the hall would hold. So I 
rushed up to the president's office (oh, yes, this m.ust 


have been later than I913-I914, it must have "been quite 
a good deal later) and said, "We've got to put this man 
in a bigger hall; this is scandalous. The place is 
chaos ." 

They said, "Well, there's Wheeler Hall over there — 
take the whole lot of them up there." 

So I took them up there, and Ralph Barton Perry was 
my devoted friend from then on. His first lecture was 
an eye- and ear-opener to me. There was such a thing 
as the study of value! It had been conducted mostly by 
psychologists and economists in Austria, and I hadn't 
learned of their existence. I had gone into the critique 
of reason of Kant; I'd taken a seminar on Kant, but I 
hadn't been able to make any headway v/ith his Reinen 
Vernunf t . The sentences were too long and too verbose, 
and my German wasn't up to it, and I didn't have a trans- 
lation. (Yes, I think I've anticipated myself a bit here.) 
At any rate, the value aspect of the history of music 
was just as much up in my mind as was the scientific, 
but I couldn't do much about it. I had to give what lec- 
tures I gave on value off the cuff, pretty much subjective- 
ly. That I could transfer from literary criticism to 
music criticism was clear, and uiider guidance of my friend 
Cory, my critical apparatus became much improved. But 
the apparatus of literary criticism, fell far short of 


what I wanted the apparatus of musical criticism to be. 
Throughout my work In Berkeley, the critical aspect of 
my work was far less well handled than the scientific. 

Now let me see what else I should say about that 
year I913-I914. 

TUSLER: What were your connections with the higher 

SEEGER: We were very smooth and very good. The presi- 
dent backed me as well as he thought I should be, and 
while I was housed for 1913-191-^5 I think, in an old 
house since torn down on Bancroft that smelled rather 
badly, we moved into a much better house, as I say, up 
behind what's now the Women's Faculty Club. I had at 
least some money for buying books, instruments, library 
[materials] <. The University Recitals went on, and every- 
thing was going very nicely. 

Now whether it was in 1913-191^ or whether it was 
early in the next year I don't remember, but I think it 
was along in the spring of ' l4 before the war. Cory and 
I were holding forth one night on immortality, I think it 
v;as, to a group of our young faculty members and graduate 
students, and we thought we did a beautiful job. I noticed 
there was a man over in the corner who didn't say much, 
and after a while he opened up. He was a redheaded fellow, 
an nam.ed Parker, Carleton [H.] Parker. I wish 


I could reproduce his denunciation of the two of us. 
It was tempered and professorial, as it should be, but 
he pulled no punches. We just didn't live in a real 
world. VJe were sitting up in an ivory tower talking 
nonsense, and we could talk our heads off and it wouldn't 
make any difference to anything at all , and we were just 
children and damn fools. 

Well, we rather liked that; v/e liked people to come 
out and say what they thought. So we took him up, and 
we had a marvelous session, as a result of which he said, 
"You come off with me and I'll show you something," 

When we were able to make an arrangement we went 
off with Carleton Parker to the valley. I've forgotten 
what the first place we went to was; I think it was in 
the hopfields. The migratory v/orkers, the agricultural 
workers, were making a lot of trouble in California at 
the time, and efforts were being made by the IWW's, the 
old International Workers of the World, to organize them. 
They were having terrible trouble. On this ranch we saw 
the handcarts and the wagons (I don't remember any auto- 
mobiles) that the workers had come to this ranch in. As 
we went over the dusty entrance to the ranch, we found 
some tents were set up--I've forgotten whether there were 
any shacks or not, but I remember the tents. There were 


a lot of children around, some animals, and there was 
a latrine, nothing but a hoard over a ditch not too 
very far away. 

The workers were in the fields, and the workers 
were everybody over about six years old v/ho could do 
anything in that connection. The trouble was, the chil- 
dren looked just like my children. (My second boy had 
been born by that time. They were yellow-haired, blue- 
eyed, rosy-cheeked specimens, healthy and happy.) These 
miserable, dirty little pockmarked skinny specimens, 
some of them with bloated stomachs, had rather put me 
down. We talked to some of the workers, and they told 
about the miserable wages and hard working order, the 
long working day, and the insecurity of the employment; 
they'd sometimes travel several days laboriously through 
the hot valley to find that there was no job. We visited 
a Hindu temple that had been built by one of the ranchers 
so that his Hindu workers could worship properly. The 
conditions on that ranch 1 don't remember, but the fact 
I don't remember them [may mean] they may have been a 
little bit better than the first one. We went to one 
or two other ranches, and it was a pretty dreadful situa- 

Meanwhile, Parker was telling us that the large 


proportion of the people in the world lived this way, 
and the way we thought the reality of life was laid out 
was really something quite different. Well, this had 
been on my m.ind for a number of years. I'd been brought 
up, as I think I said, with my father's philosophy, 
that about seventy percent of the people in the world 
were just stupid and couldn't do anything for themselves, 
and about all you could do was just keep them from riot- 
ing and making trouble. But I had begun to doubt this. 

When I was in Berlin there was a riot outside the 
Reichstag one time, of the Socialists for some reason 
or other, and a full account of it was in the German 
newspapers. I never read newspapers; I thought that was 
a foolish occupation for a composer. But my friend 
Sweet one day when I went up to his room had the paper 
on his desk, and I said, "What do you read this stuff 
for? You have nothing to do with that.'' 

He said, "Well, Seeger, these people may have some- 

"Oh," I said, "nonsense. They're nothing but gutter- 
snipes, and politicians are using the guttersnipes 
to advance themselves." Then we had a lively argument. 

But at the same time, my friend the poet, Wheelock, 
had been glorifying what he called "sane and sensual 
humanity" in some poems that I was very much impressed 


withj and I had used these in the lilDretto of my opera 
for the choral part, which was to take something like 
the choral part of the Greek drama. The chorus was to 
be arranged on two sides of the stage in ranks behind 
a screen so that you couldn't see them. They could see 
the conductor and they could sing through the screen to 
the audience, but you couldn't see them, and the actors 
on the stage would act entirely independent of them^ 
choruses on the stage were out. So this idealistic 
concern with the brotherhood of man was accompanied by 
me with the leftovers of my childish scorn of the "lower 
classes ." 

I had seen misery in Mexico City, where the children 
rolled around in the dirt and the sewage of the dogs and 
other animals, and in the Mexican villages, where the 
children were at least healthier because they were out- 
doors and they would have plenty of greenery that they 
could eat. And I'd seen the miserable children in the 
Lower East Side in New York and in the slums of the great 
European cities. But they were hopeless. You couldn't 
do anything with them. Some nice people and even some 
relatives of mine had gone into settlement work, and I 
respected them for it, but I would say, "What can you do 
with those people? What could you do with these dirty. 


unfedj hopelessly unintelligent beings?" And still there 
was a wall between the idealistic sympathy with Wheelock's 
poetry and the growing feeling that perhaps something 
ought to be done about it. 

Well^ this had been more or less gnawing at my think- 
ing and feeling processes for some time; my old state of 
mind had been undermined by Teggart's seminars in the pro- 
cess of history^ where huge multitudes of people went at 
each other hammer and tongs, and they killed each other, 
tortured each other, and shut each other up in stockades 
and ghettos and so forth; human life began to represent 
something to me that was not Just like the life of "our 
dear queen." I think Carleton Parker's criticism dis- 
posed of the last shreds of these childish survivals. I 
don't mean to say that my father was a brute. He wasn't, 
but he was a quiet, gentle person who simply had that view, 
and that view was shared by the people whom he most ad- 
mired in life; anyone who went out and tried to do anything 
for this multitude, that was all to the good, but not 
everybody could do that, and somebody else had to do some- 
thing else, anyway. Somebody else had to earn the money 
to pay for the settlement workers, and so the whole thing 
was in a neat picture of nineteenth-century laissez-faire 


That, I think, more or less winds up my second year 
at Berkeley, which was for me a graduation into the life 
that the bachelor is supposed to graduate into. I was 
twenty-seven or -eight by that time, instead of being 
twenty-one--a few years late, but still it did happen, 
thank heavens, at that time. 

I think also at that time through Carleton Parker 
I had met Emil Kern, an old Kautskian Socialist who lived 
more or less by his wits in San Francisco and had a shack 
over on the Pacific, who took a shine to Cory and me, and 
we took a shine to him. He made fun of us, as Parker 
did, and so that was a healthy thing. Emil Kern was a 
disenchanted, misanthropic eld German who'd come over 
here and had no faith in the American way of life. He'd 
look at my fireplace and he'd say, "You know, you fool 
Americans, you burn up enough wood in that fire to heat 
a building ten times the size of this. Most of the heat 
goes up the chimney. You ought to go over to Germany and 
learn how to have a good, little briquette stove off in 
the corner and keep your whole room much warmer and 
more healthy." 


OCTOBER 20, I966 

SEEGER: The academic year of 1914-1915 no sooner began 
than World War I broke out. California seemed very far 
away, and most of us felt very much in the position of 
observers. My own feeling was, having studied in Germany 
and disliking German militarism, that it was a tossup 
between the two undesirable opponents, the German mili- 
taristic machine and the vast and apparently unshakable 
British Empire, whose misdeeds vrere of course ringing 
in our ears year after year in the newspapers. For the 
United States, imperialistic ideas were beginning to 
evolve, and they were not entirely harmonious with the 

There is not much to say about the actual conduct 
of the music work after that year; it became solidified. 
The courses were increasingly well attended. Courses in 
voice culture were introduced. The students were advancing 
through my planned four-year course for the BA, and the 
University Recitals continued. They were of pretty good 
quality. Things were going very well. 

The development of contacts with San Francisco was 
increasing on two sides, on two different paths. On the 
one hand, I had some introductions to well-to-do fam.ilies 


in San Francisco and would go for luncheons, receptions 
and dinners to the big houses on the tops of the hills, 
where I knew the Bournes and the Kings, and I've forgot- 
ten the names of the others now. On the other hand, my 
friend Cory and I began to be invited to give lectures 
to the Radical Club, which met in small restaurants on 
the border of what they used to call the Barbary Coast. 
I can't be too sure of just what the chronological order 
of events along here is, and perhaps it doesn't make too 
much difference, but the most exciting events were the 
marches of the old IVM (Industrial VJorkers of the World) 
through the valleys of San Joaquin and Sacramento, try- 
ing to organize the migratory v/orkers. Our sympathies 
were, of course, at once involved. 

The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra was improving 
in stature, and musical life was beginning to build up. 
One of the difficulties was getting hold of music. I 
discovered a small music importing house in Los Angeles 
and began to import music from Germany and Russia direct 
to them. They gave me faster service than New York^ there 
was no place in San Francisco from which I could order. 
The last opuses of Scriabin and the early [work] of Schoen- 
berg and Stravinsky began to come in. One of my students, 
Dorothy Pillsbury, rather liked to play two-piano music 
with me, and we worked up a number of programs to the point 


where we could give them in public. 

I had not been placed on the Committee for Music 
and Drama. It was chaired by Professor [William Dalton] 
Armes of the English Department. I don't know whether 
Professor Armes remembered or not, but when I v/as in 
Harvard and taking Professor [George Pierce] Baker's 
course in the drama (I think it was English 21, I'm 
not positive of the name). Professor Armes, then an el- 
derly man with a gray beard, was on leave from California 
and taking courses with Professor Baker because he wanted 
to work up his own courses in California. The desks and 
benches in Professor Baker's old room were rather shaky, 
and Ned Sheldon and I took great pleasure in shaking the 
desk that we were sitting at, at the other end of which 
was Professor Armes, so that his avid notetaking was 
thrown completely out of kilter. [laughter] 

I don't know whether he remembered this or not, but 
my first session with Prof essor Armes, I think it was in 
the fall of 1912, was inauspicious. He shov/ed me with 
great pride the Sunday afternoon programs of music, "Half- 
Hours of Music," I think they called them, in the Greek 
Theatre. The programs were appalling. There was a woman 
whistler on one, and a solo cornetist on another [laugh- 
ter] , and with my characteristic frankness of expression 
in those days, I denounced these in no uncertain terras. 


Armes' feelings v/ere hurt beyond repair, and he would 
not have me on the committee for all the time that I 
was in Berkeley. 

Our relations went from bad to worse, until finally 
it was open i^/arfare. I can't remember just exactly how 
the thing progressed from bad to worse, but I disapproved 
of most of his programs and he was not interested in mine. 
He had thousands at his afternoons in the Greek Theatre, 
and I had mere hundreds at the University Recitals, so 
he felt an advantage. 

Later on, I think it was in 1915 or I916, he was 
approached by the manager in San Francisco of Leo Ornstein, 
a hell-to-leather young New York pianist who played the 
piano with his fists, who interested me very much, and 
of course was an idol of Henry Cowell. Herr Armes turned 
thumbs down on the concert by Leo Ornstein, and so when 
the manager came to me, I said, "Why, of course, I'd just 
love to give him a concert." So we started to make ar- 
rangements. 1 had no money, and I explained to the mana- 
ger that he'd have to do the thing on a shoestring, and 
he could have all the profits above the expenses. Evi- 
dently Armes got wind of this, and the first thing I knew 
the manager told m.e he was dropping the matter because 
Professor Armes was going to take it up. That was just 
about v;hat I should have expected, but I hadn' t expected it, 


The evening of the concert came (this must have 
been a good deal later; it must have been I916 or may- 
be even 1917--yes, I guess it was 1917), and owing to the 
shocking publicity, Wheeler Hall was practically full. 
I had accepted an assignment from the student newspaper, 
I think it was called the Daily Californian , to review 
the concert, and when I presented myself at the entrance. 
Professor Armes was standing behind the ticket box. I 
had no ticket and he wouldn't let me in. Henry Cowell 
went on in--we v/ere together. I returned to the music 
building and wrote up a review, and Henry came around 
Just about as I was finishing it and told me how wonder- 
ful the concert was; so I put at the end of my review: 
"This revievr was written in the music building while the 
concert was in progress, because I was refused entrance." 
And it was published. [laughter] 

Poor Armes never got over it. He was ill at the 
time; I didn't know it. I finally had an appealing let- 
ter from him in his freehand writing, which wound up: 
"With this explanation, may our hopeless feud be ended," 
or something of that sort. Of course, it didn't end it. 
He died not long afterwards, not on that account, I'm 
sure, but of others. 

I had been on the Committee for Music Education, and 
that's how I got off on this side issue of Armes. It was 


a very stuffy committee that was at war with the humani- 
ties. The educators were supposed, after taking a cer- 
tain numher of courses in education, to be able to teach 
anything] the humanists were interested in the people who 
were going to teach some subject knowing som.ething about 
the subject. I got along perfectly well v/ith the educa- 
tors by keeping my mouth shut, and was presently visiting 
high schools in the foothills of California as a neophyte 
member of the committee on education. 

I spent a couple of weeks each spring going through 
the foothills. It was extremely interesting, and at each 
high school I would give a talk as a visiting man from 
Berkeley; since I was a musician 1 talked about music, 
and then I would play for them. 1 would play some con- 
servative music, perhaps something from the Fitzwilliam 
Virginal Book, or Bach, and then perhaps something from 
Chopin or Schumann or Brahms, and then wind up with Schoen- 
berg, Stravinsky, or Scriabin. The students in these 
high schools I was visiting slumbered through the early 
parts of the program, but really perked up for the modern 
music which they loved. It never failed to get a hand. 
At some of the nearer high schools that I went to, Dorothy 
Pillsbury came v;ith me, and we gave performances on two 
pianos when v;e could get two pianos tuned together. One 
of our chefs d ' oeuvre was the first half of the Consecration 


of Spring by Stravinsky, which was greeted with enormous 
applause by the students and dismay by the older people. 

As the year 1914-1915 went on, my second boy [John] 
was born. Henry [Cowell] brought in more and more good 
stuff. I felt more and more sure of myself; and v;hen an 
old friend offered to loan us money to build a house, we 
accepted with pleasure. 

We had made some very warm friends from the faculty. 
I remember Mr. and Mrs. John Galen Howard. Howard was 
the architect of the early white buildings--the main li- 
brary building, the campanile and the two little cheese 
boxes down below, Boalt Hall and the Administration Build- 
ing. They were warm friends of the Gregorys, who had a 
house up on Greenwood Terrace; Noyes and Wells of the 
English Department were friends of theirs. With one 
or two others they had formed a poetry club, and they 
used to meet at the members' houses where, after dinner, 
each member would read in turn from the English poets. 
When my turn came, I read Shelley's Peter Bell the Third , 
which v;as a merciless satire of Wordsworth, and the ship- 
wreck from Byron's Don Juan , both designed to shock my 
friends. The shock was almost complete, I'm sure, but 
they took it with good grace. 

So naturally when it came to buying a house, I wanted 
to buy a house up at the head of La Loma, near the Howards 


and the Gregorys and the Noyes. We found a beautiful 
lot just back of the Gregorys owned by Bernard Maybeck, 
the architect. It had a beautiful willow tree in the 
middle of it, and with Arthur Pope of the Philosophy 
Department, we divided the lot and met the conditions 
of Maybeck that he would design the exterior at least, 
if not the interior, too. So we had the advantage for 
the small amount of money that we paid for the land of 
having the genial architect provide the plans for us. 

During the summer of 1.9V5 , the house was built. I 
was a rather unruly client for dear old Mr. Maybeck. I 
insisted upon ray own floor plan. He saw no harm in it, 
but when I started working things out into inches, 1 
could see a certain amount of disapproval; but the floor 
plan was accepted and the house was staked out so as to 
preserve the beautiful tree. La Loma Avenue, which now 
is almost an expressway behind the house, was at that 
time a footpath, and the neighbors all assured me that 
it would never be anything but a footpath, that the pe- 
titions were in the works for its being closed to ever 
being a road, so that I would be perfectly safe in placing 
the house where I did. Maybeck put the outside on, and 
the house is still standing. I had a good landscape ar- 
chitect plant it, allowing a place for a couple of Christmas 


trees which were redwood trees about three or four feet 
high whichj after the decorations were taken off^ were 
planted. One of them is now about fifty feet high. 

I had bought an autcmobilej a Model-T Ford--oh no, 
I think I bought the Model-T the next year--at any rate, 
we spent the summer down at Carmel in Mrs. Howard's cot- 
tage (which we rented), and came up to supervise the 
building of the house from time to time. The little 
round studio that I built for myself at the foot of 
the lot was almost finished, and I made the mistake 
of sleeping through the night on the floor, contracting 
a horrible case of grippe. 

My first masque had been performed by the girl 
students of the University in 191'^--it was Derdra ; their 
second was the Queen' s Masque [in 1915] and a repeat per- 
formance was arranged. I had a rehearsal for it but was 
too sick to conduct, so Miss Pillsbury, who'd been in on 
the rehearsal and the conducting and copying of the parts, 
made shift to conduct it somehow or other with the help 
of the concertmaster and some members of the San Francis- 
co Symphony Orchestra. 

By that time, entry of the United States into the 
World War was very much under discussion. War feeling 
was mounting in California, and it must have been during 
those years that the University became very strongly 


pro-Ally. I still remained pretty much aloof. I couldn't 
see that the German side was any worse than the English 
side. This made some bad feeling, and I can trace the 
relationship of the Music Department to the rest of the 
University partly in terms of this feeling. The young 
members of the faculty and the graduate students seemed 
to be pretty much against the United States entering the 
war. Woodrow Wilson was campaigning on the slogan, "He 
kept us out of war," and we were pretty sure of ourselves. 

There wa.s a small group of us who were rather good 
friends, older graduate students and the younger members 
of the staff, who used to go off on hikes on weekends 
to Bolinas and up to Mount St. Helena and other places 
where we would either sv/im or hike and in the evenings 
sit around and discuss the world in general, sometimes 
putting on impromptu plays in which I would sit at the 
piano, improvising accompanying music, and the actors 
would pretend sometimes to sing and act more or less in 
the emerging style of the movies. I remember one espe- 
cially successful evening at the old roadhouse at the 
top of the pass (it was a dirt road then) of Mount St. 
Helena where Cory made furious love to a very pretty girl 
whose name I've forgotten now. I think she was an in- 
structor in the English Department; it was a huge success. 
It was up near Silver Mine, made famous in Robert Louis 


Stevenson's The Silverado S quatters . 

When It came to signing up for the drafts I signed 
as a conscientious objector. The dear old judge who 
took my deposition begged me not to do It, but I was 
adamant, and thought the issues of the war were about 
fifty-fifty, and that fighting wouldn't do any good 
whatever, that the two might just as well fight each 
other to a deadlock and make some kind of peace with- 
out involving the United States. 

As the war fever Increased, my lectures at the 
Radical Club and the IW¥ meetings were more frequent. 
I needn't go into many more details here except to say 
that I was Invited to give a lecture to the IWW's at their 
meeting place out on Market Street on the second or third 
floor of a loft. I went up full of spirits to find that 
the doorway was surrounded by a cordon of police and a 
huge crowd of people. We made our v/ay through and strug- 
gled up the stairs, simply packed with people and with 
plainclothesmen obviously stationed on the way. The 
room was filled to standing room, to the last square inch. 

My topic was Bertrand Russell's article on pacifism 
that had been published not long before in the Atlantic 
Monthly , pacifism being, of course, in this respect an 
issue of the IWW's and of a very large part of California. 
(Carl Seashore, the psychologist, who had been visiting 


the previous summer session, I remember voiced his opin- 
ion one night that California certainly must be four-to- 
one against entering the war.) I gave my lecture to a 
most appreciative audience. My sallies were greeted with 
enormous applause, and I remember only the final denouement. 
Bertrand Russell here was talking sense, but the only 
thing was about the program that he outlined that it was 
absolutely impractical, that unfortunately people would 

After the cheers died down, the officers of the IWW 
present came forward and gave me an invitation to join, 
which I humbly declined, because I said I wasn't worthy 
of mixing my bourgeois background in with their proletarian 
ancestries. As a matter of fact, there was a young Oxford 
or Cambridge man there whose name I forget, whom I'd known 
for a couple of years and was a confirmed IWW, and who was 
involved somewhere in their internal organization. But 
my belief at that time was that if the working people 
were going to do anything for themselves, they'd better 
not have any upper-class people too closely connected with 
them, that they were rather dangerous even though they 
might voice sympathies. As I remember, the men took it 
very nicely and appreciated it, and we shook hands warmly 
all around. 


Whether any word of this reached the University 
authorities or not I never knew^ hut undoubtedly they 
v;ere informed that this young professor was really carry- 
ing on a little bit beyond the bounds of decency. Cory 
and I and some of our colleagues began to meet with ra- 
ther cold glances from our academic friends. I remember 
one day, just in front of the i^dministration Building, 
passing a man whom I admired very much, some of whose 
seminar meetings I had attended, a biologist by the name 
of [Samuel Jackson] Holmes, who cut me dead. 

I turned sharply and caught him by the arm and 
said, "What's the matter?" 

He said, "I do not recognize people who approve of 
soldiers bayoneting Belgian babies to barn doors." 

The only thing I could think of saying was, "VJhere 
do you get the data for your field of study, from the 
newspapers?" and turned on my heel and walked off. 

That didn't help matters. Things got worse and 
worse. President Wheeler, who had been a publicly known 
Germanophile, was in trouble; not that people didn't 
stand by him, because he was much admired and very capa- 
ble, but he was in internal trouble, I think, and began 
to be rather undependable in his speech. He would make 
slips, such as introducing the president of Mills College 
as the president of Wells College at a class day speech; 


and he obviously felt terribly badly about the situation. 
I wouldn't be surprised that it led to his premature 
death. Everybody knew that for years he had had a large 
portrait of Emperor William over his piano in the presi- 
dent's house. The administration of the university other- 
wise was increasingly strongly pro-Ally, and Professor 
[Charles Mills] Gayley, who was dean and eventually be- 
came acting president, was an Englishman. 

Anybody can see that in spite of the fact that I 
had now increased the enrollment of the Music Department 
to several hundred, my term was limited. My students 
had gotten along very well. They studied hard, did 
well, and v/e finally put on kind of a party, a graduating 
party for my first class that I'd seen through from the 
first year to the fourth. I don't remember much about it, 
except that I devised a two-piano composition improvised 
by Henry Cowell and myself, in which there was a cadenza 
for conductor solo, the conductor being Glen Haydon. He 
was a tall (he must have been six foot three inches at 
least) redheaded clarinetist who was anything but an 
actor, but he put on a perfectly beautiful half-minute 
cadenza, the conductor solo, finally collapsing on the 
podium to the small audience's delight. [laughter] 

I had meanwhile bought my first automobile, a Model-T, 


and had spent several weeks tramping up and down Cali- 
fornia with my wife and two small children. We arranged 
it this way: the hack of the front seat was cut and 
hinged to fill in the foot room of the back seat, and I 
extended the front seat with some kind of a device so 
that a double mattress could he put inside. My wife and 
I slept inside. The younger hoy slept in the back foot 
room with his head poking out through the open door. (It 
was what they called a tonneau in those days; there were 
two side doors and of course a collapsible top.) The 
older boy was slung in a kind of hammock on the right 
footboard, the hammock being a cord between the edge of 
the front mudguard and the back mudguard. In that way, 
we could all be off the ground when we wanted to be. We 
sometimes would all sleep out on the ground. 

We went up north and we went down south, and we went 
through several of the Indian reservations, Yosemite, 
over the Tioga Pass, which you could imagine in those 
days was something of an adventure--the road was just a 
dirt road; and it was a wonderful experience. 

There had been at the time some twelve hundred wax 
cylinders of California Indian music collected by various 
anthropological expeditions in the Department of Anthro- 
pology, and of course these were put at my disposal. I 
remember going around and listening to these, the first 


field recordings that I ever heard, and finally having 
it occur to me that some of them didn't sound very well. 
So I went to the anthropologist in charge, I forget his 
name now, and said, "Some of these recordings seem to not 
sound as well as others." 

"Oh," he said, "yes, they deteriorate very rapidly 
under playing." 

I remember even then having enough sense to say, 
"Well, you're a damn fool if you let any body play them." 

"Oh," he said, "we let anyone play them, graduate 
students or anyone else. It's good for them." 

And I said, "VJell, it's not good for the records, 
and you're criminals to let these things be heard because 
they are some day going to be very valuable." 

I had no idea of there being such a thing as a study 
of this material. It was in process in Berlin, but I had 
no idea that it was. 

Well, to wind up the stay in Berkeley as fast as I 
can, I arranged to take a sabbatical year off in the East 
in 1918 and 1919^ realizing that probably I would not 
be reappointed at the end of my seven years. The anxiety 
of the war and also hard work had made steady inroads on 
my health. I'd always been able to do anything I wanted, 
although I was very underweight and slight. Let me see. 


I v/as six foot two Inches and weighed l42 pounds. When 
I went up for my physical examination for the draft, the 
doctors were really quite scornful, and I remember one 
of them pointing over to a magnificent specimen, who 
really could have posed for a statue of a Greek athlete, 
and he said, "There's a soldier." I often wondered whe- 
ther that boy lived through the war. My status as con- 
scientious objector was never challenged. 

I remember when I was called upon by two men to buy 
war bonds--everybody was supposed to buy war bonds--! 
refused. I said, "I don't approve of this war and I won't 
willingly pay a cent to support it. I am a law-abiding 
citizen; if the government has to tax people for the war 
and they pass a law that everybody shall pay a certain 
tax, I'll pay it, but I won't contribute voluntarily." 

Being in a prominent position, and California being 
very largely still against the war even up to the summer 
of 1917 J 1 was never bothered; but some other young con- 
scientious objectors [were] . I remember there was a 
young professor whom I rather admired; I've forgotten 
what university he was in--he was an economist. He was 
made to stand up with twenty-five others at the camp to 
which he'd been taken, and the fire hose was turned on 
them; they were knocked doxvn. When they were resuscitated. 


they were made to stand up again and knocked down again. 
I don't know how long it kept up, but several of them 

The continuing excitement of being antiwar in a 
war economy and a war psychology had worked on me very 
seriously. The loss of certain friendships had also 
worked. I had composed the music for the two partheneias, 
keeping a heavy academic program going at the same time. 
By "a heavy academic program" I don't mean teaching tv;o 
seminarSj which is the case with m.any of our professors 
nowadays, but a teaching schedule of fifteen, sixteen, or 
eighteen hours, not counting the appointments with sin- 
gle students outside, with half a dozen different courses. 

So my wife and I decided that we would go East. 
The war was still in progress, and it must have been Sep- 
tember, 1918 when we rented the house and got permission 
to travel by Pullman with the two children to New York. 
It was a slow and somev/hat interrupted trip, but we got 
there. We were met at Poughkeepsie by my mother and sis- 
ter in a rented car, and taken cross-country to my father's 
country place five miles south of Pawling, Dutchess Coun- 
ty, New York, where they had bought the old Patterson 
house; a Patterson had received his deed to the land 
from the Revolutionary authorities back in the eighteenth 


century. It was a lovely house, designed by an archi- 
tect who had done only four or five in the area. They 
had enough coal to keep the house warm; they had two coun- 
try girls for servants; and we spent a wonderful winter 
together. My father was in Paris as vice-president for 
Europe of the American Rubber Export Company, [which 
had] headquarters in Paris. 

I hadn't been in Patterson very long before v/e heard 
over the telephone that peace had been declared, Novem- 
ber 11, 1918. I was in pretty bad shape. I remember 
we were much v/orried about it so that I v/ent into the 
Institute of Life Extension in New York either that year 
or a year or so later for my first serious physical exami- 
nation. I was given a very low grade. There wasn't much 
I could do. I was shot to pieces, wouldn't last long. 

The events that I have been speaking of so far had 
mostly to do with my relations to society in general, 
but within that conflict, that largely social-psycho- 
logical conflict, there was an intellectual conflict. I 
found that although theoretically I could compose at any 
time, while I was teaching, I couldn't; and it finally 
came to be shown to be fact that in Patterson, where I 
didn't have to do anything except appear for three square 
meals a day and spend all the rest of my time at composition. 


I couldn't compose. The virus of musicology had gotten 
into me, and talking about music became something which 
I couldn't separate, and It didn't occur to me to separate, 
from making music. 

In 1916, I had been invited to give two lectures 
at Harvard. At that time I had announced my course on 
the introduction to musicology that I've already spoken 
about, and when they asked me for the title, I gave them 
the title "Introduction to Musicology: Scientific Method," 
Lecture I; "Critical Method," Lecture II. The answer 
from Professor Spalding was, "We've talked over the word 
musicology in our faculty meeting, and we don't think 
much of it; please find another word." And so I dutifully 
changed the title to "The Organization of Musical Know- 
ledge: Scientific Method and Critical Method." 

The first lecture went very nicely, and the second 
lecture I had about twice as many people. The lecture 
on criticism naturally started in with the question of 
what was value in connection with music. I cited one 
thing that worried me very much. Music must have some 
relation to society. It's inconceivable that it shouldn't. 
Young composers wrote operas because wealthy people wanted 
to have operas written. They wrote symphonies because 
wealthy people wanted to have symphonies vxritten. They 


wrote a cappella choral masses because the Catholic Church 
would support them for life v/hile they wrote these masses. 
They wrote the music that was demanded of them. It was 
only in the Romantic period that they began to v;rite mu- 
sic that they wanted to write for themselves and society 
didn't ask them to write, and they sometimes had a hard 
time making two ends meet. 

I saidj "Well, here am Ij you all know that I gradua- 
ted here with honors in music and want to be a composer-- 
but who wants my music? In other words, what's the value 
to society of my music? To me, it's everything, but v;hat 
is it to society? We live in a business economy here, 
and everything is talked about sooner or later in terms 
of money; money is a means of exchange for economic value. 
How is economic value decided? It's by supply and demand, 
and techniques of distribution." I had read enough Marx 
to be able to pretty much get over their depths, because 
I'm sure that none of them had read Marx, but actually 
my Marxism was extremely weak. 

I said, "Let's put it this way. The so-and-so com- 
mittee of Congress has just published a report. It shows 
that a very large proportion of the population of the 
United States lives at an income level below what is 
considered subsistence [level] by ordinary social v;ork 


standards. I know perfectly well that no matter what 
kind of music I v/rite, this rather large percentage of 
the population (I've forgotten what it was) won't give a 
damn about my music. Even if you took it to them they 
wouldn't like it. They won't go out and ask for it; much 
less will they pay for it because they can't even pay 
enough money to get bread and milk. Now, it doesn't 
bother me too much that grown people can't get this bread 
and milk, but I must say that it rather bothers me that 
the children can't get the bread and milk. I have two 
little children, and it touches me rather closely when 
I think of those two children starving to death. 

"What is the relation of my music to this United 
States of ours, a large part of which, which really vrar- 
ries me greatly, is living at a starvation level, a still 
very substantial part is barely squeezing by, a rather 
small part is really living in what you might call com- 
fort, and a pretty respectable percentage is living in 
utmost luxury? I can't make head or tail out of it. 
What shall I do? I ask you that question. 

"As I work it out from the figures of this committee, 
the five thousand dollars a year that I require to sustain 
my family and myself in the condition to which we are ac- 
customed, where I can have a good piano and enough household 


service so that I'm free to compose as much as I want, 
represents the difference between a sub-subsistence level 
and a bare subsistence level of one hundred twenty-eight 
people." And I gave them the figures by which I calcula- 
ted this. 

"Now," I said, "of this one hundred twenty-eight 
people, there are undoubtedly some loafers who wouldn't 
work even if you gave them a chance to work, but there 
are some people who are probably asking for work and try- 
ing to get it and can't, and there are children probably 
without enough to eat, no medical care, no clothes, no 
decent living conditions. How can I go on saying, 'I like 
the music I compose and a few of my friends do, ' and then 
wait for music historians two or three generations later 
to decide whether it's good or bad?" I said, "I can't 
function under ethical situations like this. The situation's 
gotten so bad that it's beginning to influence my composi- 
tion, and I'm wondering if I'm writing the kind of music 
the American people want, even though I like it better than 
the popular music that they seem to pay very readily for. 

"Well, there's the question, gentlemen, take it or 
leave it, I can't live with it. What shall I do?" 

Until a few years ago, I think, some fifty years 
later. Harvard hadn't quite entirely gotten over that 


lecture. I remember meeting Randall Thompson, who was 
chairman of the department in the fifties — I was in Cam- 
bridge at the time and wanted permission to use the li- 
brary there, to enter the stacks, which he very graciously 
signed for me. We happened to be talking about old times 
and I said, "Do you remember those lectures that I gave 
at Harvard? Do you remember them?" 

He said, "I certainly do, I still have my notes," 
looking at me in a rather disapproving manner. [laughter] 

My friend George Footo, whom I'd gone through college 
with, and had been almost on a blood-brother friendship 
basis with in Germany, wrote me a few weeks afterwards, 
"Dear Charles: Since our political views differ so ex- 
tremely, I think that perhaps we might cease our corres- 
pondence." I never wrote to him again for thirty-odd 
years, nor he to me. 

Well, this inner conflict, which was an intellectual- 
musical conflict with me, and the outer social conflict 
between me and society, reduced me to a pretty low level. 
I had horrible indigestion and didn't know how to live, 
and decided that what I'd better do would be to just live 
an ordinary physical life for a couple of years and then 
try to work out some way of supporting my family. I had 
enough income from the first year, for my sabbatical year. 


and then from the renting of my house^ to struggle by 
for a little while. 

My wife took the whole matter with the best grace 
possible. She could see that I was pretty near the end 
of my rope physically^ and did everything to help. We 
worked out a scheme by which, when my mother and sister 
left for Europe^, V7e v;ould live on at the house, taking 
complete care of ourselves. Father didn't need the house 
and was glad to have it occupied, and we dispensed with 
the servants and we shared the care of the children. 
Our third child Peter was born that spring of 1919j and 
I took as much care of him as his mother did. I learned 
to change diapers, give baths, make milk formulas, feed, 
quiet, entertain, and in general do half the work of 
taking care of the three boys, the cooking, and the house 
cleaning and everything else. 

We worked out a scheme between the two of us that 
is about the most crazy thing I ever heard of. We had 
decided that the American people didn't have enough good 
music, and my wife, not having enough strength to go 
through the regular concert mill, and ray not having enough 
strength to do much of anything, we decided we'd go off 
and play our violin and piano recitals in two ways: we 
would play in the houses of well-to-do friends and small 


concert organizations, and make enough money to play in 
small schools and churches and fraternal meetings or any 
others that would be willing to hear us for nothing. We 
would put up our own signs and we would travel on our 
own, by my building a trailer in which we could live, 
which would be pulled on behind the Model-T Ford. 

So I started in building the trailer. I went to the 
Trailmobile factory, a small fly-by-night organization 
then down on Long Island, and gave them the dimensions 
of the chassis I wanted. We had to cut one in two and 
weld in a few feet of iron. The wheels had one and one- 
half inch solid rubber tires on them, and the draw bar 
weighed about sixty pounds--it was five feet long. I put 
a four-speed transmission in the Ford, and it took me 
a year to build the trailer. I remember putting in oak 
beams that would be quite suff icient--no, twice as suf- 
ficient--for the second story of a California house. The 
outside of it was wood, the top was canvas like a prairie 
wagon, and it could collapse for getting under low bridges 
We had a little zinc well in which a gasoline stove was 
put; we carried water in a few large canteens; and the 
toilet arrangements were a large pail v;ith a cover. I 
had arranged a platform about five-by-five that could 
pull out from the chassis and make a little porch, which 


could be surrounded by a tarpaulin and made fairly tight 
for a winter porch, and we set out a few months later 
than we'd hoped, in November, I think, I920. 

By this time, I had gotten stronger. I had gotten 
hold of the digestive situation by reading a book by a 
man named Christian, who said that the trouble with Ameri- 
cans was that they ate too much soft food, so I piled 
myself full of bran and^ lo and behold, the digestive 
troubles all disappeared and my muscles became hard as 
iron] I became pretty tough, for I had to drill holes in 
the steel frame of the chassis by hand. Nowadays, you 
do it with an electric tool. 

Well, we started off in November, all of us with 
colds, stacked up with a couple of gallons of maple syrup 
we'd made out of the maple trees on the place, some pump- 
kins, and enough potatoes to last us for a little while. 
Our first adventure was being overhauled by a traffic po- 
liceman near Briarcliff Manor on the way down to New York. 
This was of course before the days of freeways and park- 
ways. He was almost trembling with excitement [laughter] 
and he said, "Do you know what you're doing?" 

I said, "Yes." 

And he said, "But did you see the way that thing 
shakes that you have on behind?" 


I saidj "Yes, the road's shaky." It was a little 
one-track tar road in not very good shape; and he said, 
"Well, be careful." 

So we went on, and you should have seen us driving 
down Fifth Avenue. It was the first trailer to be lived 
in, I think, that most people had seen. Whether anybody 
had made another one I don't know. But the noise of the 
Ford pulling this heavy weight on behind (it weighed well 
over a ton) and the Ford full of children looking out 
from under the collapsible top, and the rather pretty 
woman sitting in front, and the man with the beard driving 
(I decided that shaving was one of the things I could 
dispense with on my first trip through California in I916) 
created really quite an excitement. [laughter] Everywhere 
we went we became the cynosure of neighboring eyes. 

Well, we worked on down south, and I remember going 
out of Washington. There were already some campers on 
the road, automobile campers. They camped mostly in tents, 
but there were some campers like ours; I don't remember 
them, though. Ours was quite a big one; it was fourteen 
feet long. We all got into it with all our clothes, a 
small collapsible harmonium, the violin, and we took the 
children's toys. I remember going out of Alexandria up 
a hill and passing a Ford which didn't have a trailer on 


behind. We stopped at a gas station not far beyond,, 
and this man came up to me and said, "How do you do 
it? What kind of an engine have you got in there?" 

Well, we were going up in the third speed; he couldn't 
make it in high speed, so he had to go into low speed. 
There were two speeds on the old Model-T, and I had 
four very powerful gears. With the engine running full 
speed I could move in first about one and one-half miles 
per hour, which guaranteed me that if the tires would 
hold you could climb almost anything. 


OCTOBER 27, 1966 

TUSLER: Today to start out I'd like to go back to your 
years at the University of California and ask you a few 
questions about the wartime situation there. You said 
you took a stand as a conscientious objector, but this 
was not, shall I say, put to the test because you were 
found physically unfit for service. Was your stand as a 
CO well known on the campus, and did you suffer any as 
a result of this? 

SEEGER: I didn't advertise itj I didn't conceal it, 
either, but there was no particular interest taken in 

TUSLER: So this had nothing to do with you leaving even- 

SEEGER: I wouldn't be surprised if it did. 
TUSLER: But for other reasons. 

SEEGER: Yes. I think Professor Gayley would not have 
been particularly pleased, and there might even have been 
pressure upon him from outside, but I know nothing of it. 
TUSLER: Did you have a particular disagreement with 
Professor Gayley? 

SEEGER: Oh, no, we were always on excellent terms. 
TUSLER: And with President Wheeler also? 


SEEGER: Oh, yes. 

TUSLER: He was a well-known pro-German, was he not? 
SEEGER: I wouldn't say that he was pro-German, but he 
was a Germanophile, and of course when it came to the 
war, he never was pro-German in the ordinary sense of 
the word, as far as I know. He had lived as a Germano- 
phlle all his life, and he found it a difficult choice 
to make, I'm sure, although I'm imputing this to him; I 
don't know, I never discussed it with him. 
TUSLER: Did you know him well personally? 
SEEGER: No, and I rather doubt that anyone knew Wheeler 
very well. He was an autocrat, but he was a very likable 

TUSLER: Will you give me the exact circumstances of your 
leaving there? Did you know when you went on leave that 
you were not coming back? 

SEEGER: No, I hadn't the slightest intention [of not 
coming back] . I was going to stay there, serve my sabbati- 
cal and put up a fight to go back, and I was pretty sure 
I'd win; but one day I was working in my little round 
studio--we'd already sublet the house and were living 
down the street farther, I think where Professor Kerman 
lives now; I think Tolraan, the physicist, built the house 
in the place that the old house burned down. Felix Warburg 
walked in on me one morning with a member of the Board of 


Regents, I've forgotten his name, a well-known San Fran- 
cisco man whom I had previously met, and we discussed 
various matters very amicably. Felix Warburg was an old 
friend of my wife's. He and his wife had given us a very 
big wedding reception dinner at the time of our marriage 
in New York some years before. We walked down the street 
and as soon as we began talking my wife looked at me and 
said, "Well, it's all right. We'll go East." I had been 
pressing her to go East and spend the winter at Patterson 
with my mother and sister, and she'd finally decided that 
was the best thing to do. So it was rather a sudden de- 
cision and we left almost immediately, leaving our house 
fully furnished in the hands of some very nice people. 
TUSLER: But there were no what you would call critical 
situations with anybody else on the campus which caused 
you to make the decision not to go back? 

SEEGER: No, that was after I got away, the decision. I 
was still thinking I'd go back, but during the year at 
Patterson it was quite obvious upon reflection that I 
wasn't in any physical condition to do it, and that it 
would be a very hard fight; and so I wrote to Professor 
Gayley and asked him how it was with the University, 
whether they wanted me back, and he said, "No," and so 
I decided I wouldn't try to fight it out and let it go at 



TUSLER: This physical disability of yours that year was 
brought on by these conflicts you said you had. 
SEEGER: No, it was partly conflict, partly not knowing 
how to live. 

TUSLER: Would you like to amplify those remarks at this 

SEEGER: Well, I don't know that it's worthwhile. I didn't 
know how to stand, how to sit, how to exercise or be ac- 
tive, how to eat, or how to do anything. I'd grown like 
Topsy the way most other people had in those days, and 
that combined with the worry about the general situation 
made a combination. I realized I wasn't fit to go back. 
TUSLER: Do you feel that your interest in musicology 
came from those years, or did that develop later? 
SEEGER: My interest in musicology began in my first year 
at Berkeley, but it grew rather gradually and didn't de- 
fine itself any too well until I got East in I918 or 1919 
and set myself to try to put on paper the ideas that had 
been stimulated by the contacts with Cory and Teggart, 
Lewis and Adams, Kroeber and Lowie. I found that I couldn't 
write, that I simply had no technique of writing that kind 
of prose, and I worked for about two years solidly, get- 
thing standard works from the Library of Congress. They 
were very generous and would lend me things that they now 


would not ordinarily allow to go out of the building to 
hold sometimes for two and three months. I borrowed a 
great many of the standard classics, some in first edi- 
tions, seventeenth and eighteenth century works as well 
as nineteenth, and managed to cover quite a good many 
sources that hadn't been available to me in California. 
I wrote three papers during the two winters. One of them 
was "Music in the American University," which was published 
in the Educational Review , and two papers that were pub- 
lished later in the Musical Quarterly . 

TUSLER: Do you feel that the Music Department at Berkeley 
was at all musicologically oriented in those years that 
you were there? 

SEEGER: It was beginning to be musicologically oriented 
in my last couple of years there. 

TUSLER: Of course, at that time there really were no 
departments of musicology anywhere in the United States, 
were there? 

SEEGER: Not even any courses given; my course was the 

TUSLER: All right, then, shall we go on from where you 
stopped last time? You were describing your trip in your 
home-built trailer, and you had just started southward. 
SEEGER: As I think I said, we all had colds when we 


started, and we got over them and never had another cold. 
The idea was to go to California. We decided to go by 
a southern route. As we got down into North Carolina, 
the roads got worse and worse and finally there were no- 
thing but dirt tracks. Subsequent inquiry about the 
roads showed that they were worse. We decided to winter 
in Pinehurst. 

Looking around for a place to spend the winter, we 
found a nice pine grove and went to the nearest house 
and asked if we could camp out in it. They looked at us 
rather suspiciously, and the man was a pretty tough-look- 
ing specimen, I will say; but we managed to make friends 
with them, and they let us stay for a few days. 

One morning at about five o'clock, before dawn, there 
Was a knocking on the door of the trailer and we were 
asked whether we would drive our neighbors to Carthage, 
a neighboring town, in order for them to get a new tire 
for their truck so that they could do a job during the 
day. We said sure, invited them in for a cup of coffee, 
set out, got the tire, and our friendship was cemented. 

We asked them if there wasn't a better place for us 
to camp than that which was near the road; we were a 
little worried about the children. It was a dirt road 
over to the nearest town. They let us look all over their 


land and their "brother's land. It turned out that we 
were In the middle of a set of family holdings of the 
Macdonald family. They traced their name and descent 
to Flora Macdonald_, who had befriended Bonnie Prince 
Charlie in the unfortunate struggles for the throne of 
England some time back in the eighteenth century. We were 
finally introduced to the brother of this neighbor of 
oursj Jess Macdonald, who had a little mill pond, ran 
a mill, and ground the corn for that part of the area. 
He was a fine-looking fellow, with quite a large family-- 
a dear old mother, whom we called Ma Macdonald; a wifej 
and I think a sister or sister-in-law. There was a huge 
pile of logs out behind, mounds full of yams, and various 
small buildings that were corncribs and such things. 

The road into Jess Macdonald 's place was tricky. 
It must have been three or four hundred yards of winding 
dirt road, going over tree stumps and roots and over a 
little brook. We managed to get the trailer in and down 
onto a bottom land on the edge of the corn field, of 
course at this time of year nothing but stubble. It was 
dry and shaded by some nice trees and had plenty of sun- 
light. There was a pile of old junk out behind, but I 
didn't bother much about it. Next morning, it was all 
removed. It was obviously a still. [laughter] It was 


thought by our neighbors, at first, and I seem to remem- 
ber they told us so afterwards, though I'm not sure, that 
we were disguised revenuers. [laughter] But they sized 
us up as worth taking a chance on and perhaps giving them 
a clean bill of health, and after a while they were dis- 
abused of the idea. 

I don't know how large the family was, but they told 
me it was something like one hundred and fifty members 
spread throughout the county. Presently the father of 
the whole clan appeared, a very handsome little man with 
a great, white handlebar mustache, and we were introduced 
formally. He came in in a mule cart. He was Macdonald, 
about five feet high, and with the most aristocratic coun- 
tenance you could imagine. We all got along well; the 
Macdonalds loved us, and we would take our little portable 
organ and music stand and play Bach and Handel and Purcell 
to them, and when they thought we'd given them enough, 
they'd pull out their banjos and violins and play the 
local music, which I'd never heard before. They played 
mostly square-dance tunes. I remember to this day one 
of the parts of a pretty square-dance tune they played, 
"Sweet Sixteen," which I've never found since in anybody's 

They fell in with our plans, and we played at the 


local schools and churches; we went up to the neighboring 
town, I've forgotten its name now, and played in the town 
hall, at the same time cultivating our friends in Pine- 
hurst which was about three miles away. The advantage 
of this place was that I could get certified milk for 
Peter and such little commodities that the local peoples' 
store wouldn't normally have been able to get. We played 
a concert at the local country club and it was well liked, 
and presently we were asked to dinner at one of our friends' 
houses, named Hall. He was a novelist, a rather success- 
ful novelist at the time, and we were all preparing for 
the day. 

That morning, there was a knock at the door again, 
and Jess Macdonald said they had a job unloading a freight- 
car do^^m in Pinehurst, and So-and-so was sick and they 
needed four pair of hands, and would I come down. He 
said, "You'll get paid." So I said of course I'd go, 
and I unloaded roof tiles for a day, passing them from 
hand to hand: tv;o in the car, as I remember, one outside 
on the ground and another one in the truck that was to 
take them to the place where they were to be put on some- 
one ' s garage . 

At the end of the day I got my pay, I've forgotten 
what it was now. My impulse was to say, "No, I'm doing 


this as a favor to you," but I knew better by that time 
that that would be an insult, so I pocketed it manfully 
and asked to v/hose house the tiles were destined to go. 
It turned out that they were destined to go to the house 
that I was going to have supper in that night. [laughter] 
So after getting home and washing dov/n (it was hard v;ork-- 
I used gloves, but the others didn't; they had rough hands), 
I put on my black tie and my wife put on her pretty even- 
ing dress, and we went in and had a nice supper in the 
house. I turned the conversation onto the garage, but 
didn't mention that I had earned I think it was three 
dollars passing tiles that day. 

Well, there's not much to say about the winter, ex- 
cept we got healthier and healthier. I built a corrugated 
iron roof over the trailer so as to keep off the snow and 
one time we had about nine inches. Jess Macdonald helped 
me cut down enough pine trees to build the sides of a log 
cabin sixteen feet square, and we put an army tent up over 
it so that my wife could practice her violin comfortably 
out of the immediate neighborhood of the children. The 
children, of course, loved this experience. 

We needed water, and so they said, "Well, you must 
dig a well." 

I said, "I can't dig a well; I never digged one 



"Oh, nobody digs a well. They get a well digger. 
We'll see to that." 

So one morning quite early, an old Negro drew up in 
a mule cart and said he'd come to dig my well. So he 
went to it, and he dug the well and got very nice water 
(I've forgotten, there weren't many feet), and when he 
came to go, I asked him how much I owed him. I didn't 
owe him anything. We gave him some coffee, and we'd given 
him some lunch, and he went off shaking hands, all very 
good spirits. 

I asked Jess Macdonald about it the next day or 
that evening, because I was worried about him. He said, 
"Oh, no, don't worry, he digs all our wells." And that 
was the end of it. [laughter] There was no pay. I 
don't know whether they paid him; probably not. Macdonald 
might have paid him in corn, or offered to grind him some 
corn or something of that sort. We used to get the corn 
and wind it (pour it from one receptacle into another in 
a strong wind so it would blow the bran off), and it was 
a wonderful experience. 

Well, I won't dwell on this much longer, except to 
say that when we left we decided we'd give a party. Some 
friends we'd met in Pinehurst were expert puppeteers, so 


we arranged the little doorway of the log cabin in such 
a way that it made a little puppet stage, and we arranged 
some logs, and invited the neighborhood. We were a little 
bit dismayed when the sun set; not a soul had shown up. 
But as the twilight deepened, people came on foot and 
carts and on muleback, and first thing you know, we had 
quite a large audience. I don't remember how many there 
were, but there must have been seventy-five or one hundred 
men, women, and children. The performance was an enormous 
success. We played some music that we thought they'd like, 
and they were spellbound by the puppets. We had made 
full arrangements to leave early the next morning, be- 
cause of course the neighborhood would have been unin- 
habitable afterwards. 

We went out and started northward (this was in April, 
I think), hoping that on the way we could get enough en- 
gagements to make a profitable summer. VJe had no skill 
in business management, so we got my wife's brother, who'd 
been a press representative for Sarah Bernhardt and a 
number of other great performers of the day, to be our 
advance agent. He was unsuccessful. He got hearings for 
us, but no money. We finally v/ound up in our own terri- 
tory around New York and picked up some engagements. One 
of them, I remember, was for Colonel Thompson, at East 


Hampton. He had a beautiful lawn. We drew the trailer 
up on it, opened it and used the platform as a stage, and 
gave a concert to about sixty of his guests. I have a 
photograph of it. We went on down and visited my friend 
Jack Wheelock in East Hampton and went up to other parts 
of New England, living in the trailer and visiting our 

TUSLER: Were you making enough money from your engage- 
ments to live? 

SEEGER: No. By August, we realized that we were spend- 
ing practically our last reserves. There had been wait- 
ing in our suspense file, if you want to call it that, 
an invitation to teach under Frank Damrosch at the Insti- 
tute of Musical Art where my wife had studied, with enough 
money to live comfortably in New York. So we accepted. 
In other words, we gave in. The grand plan to bring good 
music to the musicless people of America collapsed for 
lack of business ability. [laughter] 

By this time, the children were growing up. We had 
a faithful friend, an ex-school teacher, who was giving 
them their primary and kindergarten education, and we 
rented a nice little apartment from an old friend up on 
Madison Avenue. I had long wanted a harpsichord, and about 
this time we had managed to sell our house in California 

16 1 

to a former pupil of my wife's^ who'd married one of the 
Radins, and we had enough money to buy the harpsichord. 
So I looked around for a harpsichord. Finally I got v;ind 
of one that was in Boston and I asked for a full descrip- 
tion of itj and lo and behold, it was the same harpsichord 
that I'd had at the University in Berkeley and had had 
sent to me from Los Angeles. It had traveled back across 
the continent and been bought by Frank Bibb, the accom- 
panist, and so I started to work on the harpsichord. 
TUSLER: What sort of a harpsichord was it? 
SEEGER: It was a Dolmetsch, two-manual, with six pedals. 
No. 5^3 a beautiful instrument. I had by that time learned 
to replace the quills and the felts, and keep it in pretty 
good condition and tune, and when we moved out of the lit- 
tle apartment on Madison Avenue I took it up to the In- 
stitute on 122nd Street and Claremont Avenue, where I 
used it in my courses. 

My courses had to be taken by every student expected 
to graduate. They were: a course in the history of music 
once a week; a course in mythology, epic and romantic poe- 
try; and general musicianship. I've forgotten what the 
others were. My wife was an excellent teacher [and we] 
started right in. I told Frank Damrosch I didn't know 
anything about epic and romantic poetry or mythology, and 
he said, "But you can learn, can't you?" I said, "Oh, 


yes, I can," so in the course of the first year I managed 
to work up quite an interesting course, at least interest- 
ing to me. It began vfith Greek mythology and worked 
through The Golden Bough into other mythologies, took up 
the Greek epics, and toward the end of the year reached 
Dante and finally Goethe's Faust and Wagner's Ring . In an 
one-hour lecture a week one couldn't cover too much. 
This absolutely fascinated me, and it v/asn't long before 
I found myself spending nearly all day in the library, 
working up this side of the anthropological field which 
I had neglected in Berkeley, where I chiefly concentrated 
on method. 

We'd had so much trouble taking care of the children 
this first year that we sent two of them to boarding 
school (Peter was four and a half), and moved to a smal- 
ler apartment with my oldest son Charles. From then on, 
the marriage began to disintegrate. My v/ife couldn't 
handle the children physically and nervously, and I hadn't 
the wit to realize that I could have done both, but it 
just never occurred to me. I can't say it was the thing 
to do or that it was a possible thing; it was perfectly 
possible. I could have done it and kept my teaching going 
perfectly well, but I was an idiot and didn't do it. At 
any rate, the first year things didn't go any too well. 


About the middle of the year, one of our colleagues, 
who was an old teacher, I think, of my wife's, told us 
that what we needed was to get set up, philosophically, 
emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, every 
way, and she had just the thing for us, which was a yogi 
colony up at Nyack. So we went up and visited it. Peo- 
ple seemed to talk sense, and there were some very in- 
teresting people there: Cyril Scott, the English compo- 
ser, had been in and out, but was back in England when 
I went up there; Marshall Bartholomew, the conductor of 
the Yale Glee Club, was a regular weekend visitor; there 
were painters and artists and writers and musicians and, 
most importantly, millionaires. The place was run by a 
man who called himself Dr. Pierre Bernard; he had con- 
ducted some kind of an ashram in New York. 

As soon as Dr. Damrosch heard about it, he called 
me in and said, "Charlie, you must realize this man is 
a charlatan. He's an imposter. He's a terrible repro- 

And I said, "Well, how do you know this?" 

He said, "Everybody in New York knows it. He's 
been kicked out of New York." 

I said, "Well, do put me in touch with somebody who 
can give me the straight dope." 


So he gave me a letter to a charming lady in ex- 
cellent society named Miss, or Mrs. Townsend, I don't 
remember which, who received me at tea and told me in as 
guarded a way as a lady in those days could deal with 
such things what a terrible man he was. I thanked her 
very much, but it didn't deter me. We kept on going 
up there and being entertained occasionally, and when 
the summer came, we went up with the trailer and spent 
a few weeks. We parked out on the lawn of the Clarkstown 
Country Club, which was the public name of the center, 
and met everybody and decided to join. 

We tried living in New York in several vmys, in 
various combinations, with the children and without the 
children, their going to school, and boarding school, and 
then living with us; and finally my wife gave up teaching 
and rented part of a house in Nyack, and that didn't work. 
The next year, we rented a nice big house and had the 
children with us, and things went from bad to worse. I 
would spend a Monday and a Tuesday in New York, and then 
a Thursday and a Friday. We made every possible combina- 
tion we could, the children going back to boarding school 
and finally giving up the house and my wife taking an 
apartment in New York. Meanwhile, we'd been living more 
or less separated during the summers, and I'd been taking 
care of the children, and I'd been living a more or less 


hermetical life in New York. I had no friends to speak 
of in town. I'd see my friend Wheelock once in a while; 
I spent most of my time going down to the Harvard Club 
and finally wound up living at the Harvard Club. I had 
no interest in politics, economics, social affairs, or 
anything. I lived practically a sequestered life, having 
come to the conclusion that my life had come to an end, 
and the only thing to do was to live as quietly and un- 
obtrusively as possible for the rest of the time. 

Along in 1929^ something happened. It might have 
been the electricity in the air as the result of the col- 
lapse of Wall Street; I think it was February. At any 
rate, my friend Carl Ruggles, whom I had seen something 
of during the summers of the '20' s, and Henry Cowell, who 
had brought us together, were both in New York, and they 
introduced me to a dear little old lady, Mrs. Blanche 
W. Walton. I'd say she was fifty-five then, with a small 
independent income who had the upper floor of a house 
in Scarsdale. I used to go up weekends, and Henry and 
Carl Ruggles would forgather there also, together with 
some of the others who were interested in contemporary 
music, "modern music," as it was called in those days, 
and we had a wonderful time. Mrs. Walton had a very 
pretty daughter Marion, who was a very talented sculptress. 


who was engaged to a young man in the publishing office 
at Macmillan' s. 

I remember the first performance, Carl Ruggles' 
Portals. Henry had been in to the rehearsal and had been 
entrusted with the parts and the score for the perfor- 
mance next day. Unfortunately, he went to a concert and 
left the score and parts behind in the top circle at Car- 
negie Hall. The horrible truth was imparted to us on 
a Friday night at about twelve o'clock, and after a 
short council of war, we decided we could put the compo- 
sition together and copy the parts so that it could be 
performed the next day. I think perhaps there was a 
dress rehearsal the next morning, but I've forgotten now. 
At any rate, we all set to it. Carl had a pencil score, 
which was not very easy to read, but we each started in 

I remember coming to one place and asking him whe- 
ther a note was a B-flat or an A-flat, and he couldn't 
decide, so he said, "What do you think, Charlie?" 

I said, "Well, I think it's a B-flat." 

And he said, "Well, then let it be a B-flat." [laugh- 
ter] So it was a B-flat, and as far as I know, it may 
be still today! The concert went off with great success, 
and so we all felt well rewarded. 

The group was so close-knit and was so appreciated 


by Mrs. Walton that it's worth dwelling for a moment upon 
it. I'll fill in the names later--they escape my mind. 
By the time June came and the end of my teaching in New 
York, it was clear that Mrs. Walton would give up that 
apartment and take one in New York at which we could 
forgather a little more conveniently. There was a hand- 
some leonine-headed pianist, Richard Buhlig, who gloried 
in purple silk pajamas and was quite an esthete; there 
was a French musician who had gone in for theosophy and 
had changed his name to a Hindu-style name, Dane Rudhyar; 
Henry Cowell and Carl Rugglesj Edgar Varese was in and 
out; Carlos Salzedo; a pretty young pianist and three 
or four others. Mrs. Walton v;as a great friend of the 
Edmond J. De Coppets. Mr. De Coppet had founded the 
Flonzaley Quartet, which was the most admired string quar- 
tet of the day, as a younger group in contrast to the 
older group in New York led by Franz Kneisel that had 
been dominant for a long time. 

Henry, who was a great catalyzer, had persuaded 
Mrs. Walton that she, since she had a guest room and 
would like to have somebody using it, should invite a 
young Chicago composer named Ruth Crawford to spend the 
winter with her, and suggested also that it would be a 
very fine thing if Ruth Crawford would study with Charles 
Seeger. Charles Seeger had always turned his nose up at 


woman composers, so when the arrangements were talked 
about they were phrased this way: Miss Crawford must 
take six lessons at such and such a fee, which was fair- 
ly high. After the six lessons, she can make a new ar- 
rangement, or she can study elsewhere. Meanwhile, Ruth 
Crawford had spent the summer at the MacDowell Colony. 
Her compositions had been played in Chicago and had 
received quite a bit of notice there. 

When she was installed in Mrs. Walton's apartment, 
Mrs. Walton took a great fancy to her and so prepared 
the first lesson with great care. There v;as to be a 
very nice supper, and the lesson was to begin at five 
o'clock. Miss Crawford and Mr. Seeger were introduced. 
She was a buxom, red-cheeked woman of about twenty-nine 
with bright, sparkling eyes and black hair, and dressed 
in the atrocious flapper costumes of that day. The door 
was closed on the studio, and the lesson began. At seven, 
Mrs. Walton knocked on the door to no avail. At inter- 
vals after seven, the knocks were repeated, a little 
louder each time. Finally, a genteel Philadelphian 
voice called through a crack in the door, "The dinner is 
spoiling," so we came out. The lesson was a great success, 
and at the end of the six lessons it was decided that 
Mr. Seeger would not charge anything for successive 
lessons, and they kept on during the winter. 


By this timej I had established myself at the In- 
stitute in a position of teaching ten classes of eight- 
hand piano sightreading. The sections were made up of 
five or six advanced students, who read at sight the 
Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms 
symphonies, taking turns conducting from score. In my 
second year at the Institute I had gone to Frank Dararosch 
and told him that excellent as was the instruction in 
his school, there were a number of things that were being 
missed between classes. When I gave him a list of them, 
he was dumfounded and he said, "But this can't be." So 
I said to him, "Let me examine your senior class next 
year on these subjects; you can look in any time you want, 
and I'll give you a kind of survey of things they don't 
know." He was pretty well convinced after a few weeks 
that something had to be done, but I kept up the survey 
for the year, seeing each student for an hour and putting 
him through certain tests, mostly of sightreading and, to 
a certain extent, of written work. 

At the end of it, he had no trouble convincing his 
faculty that things were not as they should be, so I was 
engaged to give also a course in general musicianship. I 
think it's the first course in general musicianship that 
was given in the country. As far as I know, the word 


was an invention of my own and wasn't used anywhere else 
before. My trick test was a piece of music which had a 
tempo mark and a double bar with a repeat in the middle 
of the page; a surprising number of the students would 
pay no attention to the double bar in the middle of the 
page, and when they got to the double bar at the bottom 
of the page, they'd stop. When I said nothing, they'd 
look at me questioningly. 

The answer was: suppose this were a test on your 
ability to perform a certain job that you wanted to get. 
"You're out in the professional life in New York, aren't 

"Oh, yes, I play the piano in such and cuch places." 

"Well, suppose you go out and want to accompany 
somebody, and they give you this piece and you play it 
the way you played it--this is what's the matter with it." 

Then I began to show them the things they had done 
wrong. They hadn't asked whether to make the repeats or 
not. The piece goes on after the page is turned over, 
but it never occurs to them the piece does go on. This 
and a number of other tricks that the musician has to 
learn as he grows up were not being taught at the Insti- 
tute. They would find themselves getting along swimmingly, 
and then suddenly come to the bottom of a page and not 


be able to turn it. The idea that they should prepare 
the pages for turning at the beginning was something com- 
pletely unknown. As far as general instruction went some 
of the teachers, of course, taught their students this; 
but others didn't, and I was able to catch them. 

Another one of the tests was to perform a simple 
two against three. None of them knew how to do it. Even 
a graduate student who'd graduated with the highest honors 
didn't know how it was done. He did it by "knack." This 
sort of thing put me in a very good situation at the In- 
stitute, and everything was going very well. The teachers 
rather resented it at first, but were very grateful for 
it afterwards. I was teaching the students how to do 
ornaments, what accelerando meant, what rallentando meant, 
the different kinds of accelerando and rallentando, and 
catching them up on a whole lot of little details, such 
as giving a pianist the Brahms horn trio and then singing 
the horn part as written. Of course it sounded awful, 
and the student looked at me as if to say, "What are you 
doing?" and I said, "Well, you see, I'm reading the horn 
part Just as it's written," and the pupil would say, "Well, 
yes, that's just what is written. It doesn't sound right." 
It turned out they never knew what a transposing instru- 
ment was . 


Well, this and other things had made me feel that 
everything was going very nicely, and together with my 
falling in with this tight little group of people in- 
terested in modern music, life began to look up. 
TUSLER: What was the rest of the faculty like at the 

SEEGER: The faculty was one of the most distinguished 
faculties that could have been brought together in New 
York at the time. Excellent teachers--Percy Goetschius, 
the author of a number of textbooks on harmony; Franz 
Kneisel, the leader of the quartet that I spoke of, and 
other members of his quartet; excellent pianists; they 
had first-chair men from the Philharmonic Orchestra for 
the wind instruments; and it was a good old-fashioned 
school. On the German pattern, it was about as good as 
one would expect to find. 

I also took over Frank Damrosch's course in the 
teaching of music, but doing it in his way: that was, 
taking his little handbook and reading a certain number 
of paragraphs and then commenting on them, spreading the 
book out throughout the year. I could get away with mur- 
der in this way as well as any other, and he was entirely 

The '20's had been for me, however, a matter of abysmal 


disappointment. The exhilaration of going off in the 
trailer was lost, and my v;ife and I went two totally 
different paths, so that by the end of the '20's we were 
living entirely apart. She didn't even take part in tak- 
ing care of the children in the summer. They were with 
me, and she never showed up. 

TUSLER: Were you composing at all at this time? 
SEEGER: No. I'd given up composition by this time, but 
I was working on a treatise on composition. After one 
of the most exciting winters in my life, which was that 
winter of I929 and I93O, I asked Miss Crawford if she 
would come up to Patterson, live at a neighbor's house, 
and take my treatise on composition at dictation, the 
treatise being a resume of the lessons I'd given her dur- 
ing the year. Meanwhile, she had been awarded a Guggen- 
heim fellowship to, in those days, study abroad, and she 
had prepared to go abroad in August. So for June, July, 
and the larger part of August, we worked on "the book." 
It was to be called Tradition and Experiment in Musical 
Composition in the Western World . I had evolved a disci- 
pline of composition on the basis of my old dissonant 
counterpoint, and by the time Miss Crawford was ready to 
leave, the two volumes were completed. They were brief, 
some two hundred pages each, with examples. 


Miss Crawford decided to leave by v;ay of Quebec 
and go to London first and then over to the continent to 
Berlin, unfortunately. People in those days had begun 
to go to Paris, but she had some reservations about 
going to Paris that I shared, and so we thought Berlin 
would be the best place. Vienna would have been much 

During this year I had asked my wife for a divorce, 
which she had refused, and presently I had fallen in 
love with a very charming English girl who was very 
much like her, a fact which appalled me after a while; 
I realized that a second marriage to her would turn out 
unsuccessful even sooner than the first had. The first 
had lasted eighteen years, and the first ten years had 
been very happy. So I broke that off. 

Mrs. Walton and I decided to take Ruth Crawford up 
to Quebec and see her off on the ship. By this time, 
it was quite obvious to Mrs. Walton that she would be 
a "three' s-a-crowd" person on the trip to Quebec, so 
Ruth and I started off together in the pouring rain in 
a little Model-A Ford with a demountable top. It rained 
all the way to Arlington, Vermont, where we'd planned to 
spend the first night with Carl Ruggles. The night was 
uproarious. Carl had established himself in the old 


schoolhouse of Arlington, a room about thirty feet square 
and about twenty feet high, with two little rooms v;hich 
I suppose were originally the girls' and boys' cloakrooms. 
He had a wretched old piano in it, and had set up his 
easel and his painting apparatus down at the other end 
of the room. There was a big potbellied iron stove to 
keep him warm. 

The trip to Quebec turned out to be for me rather 
dramatic. Ruth and I had always decided that we were 
going to be good friends and comradely musicians, and 
in Arlington I suddenly realized that I was going to feel 
very badly if she left --in fact, that I was in love with 
her^ in fact, we were both in love, and it was a rather 
hard thing to separate. I think one of the most horrible 
experiences I can look back on in my life was seeing her 
go off on the Empress-of-Something down the St. Lawrence 
River, while I was left alone in the pouring rain to go 
back to a Ruthless New York. However, everything went 
according to schedule, and we kept up a lively correspon- 
dence. She produced quite a lot of good composition in 
Europe; the best known is the String Quartet, 1931 j which 
she wrote in Berlin. I took her place in Mrs. Walton's 
guest room for the year. 

It was a wonderful winter. The group stayed together. 


The International Composers' Guild was in full flower. 
The composers were giving concerts. Varese was turning 
out his early revolutionary works. Ruggles ' compositions 
were beginning to be played. Frank Damrosch was highly 
displeased with my intention to divorce Constance; and 
my work at the Institute was cut down to about a thirds 
but I made it up with private teaching on the outside. 
A number of other lively events of a more personal nature 
I can skip over during these last years of I928, '29, 
and '30, mostly '29, '30, and '31. 

The most amusing parts of the winter at Mrs. Walton's 
were the periodic appearances of Carl Ruggles and his ini- 
mitable stories. He was the best raconteur I've ever 
known in my life. He could tell stories to a mixed 
audience that most men couldn't get away with even with 
an unmixed audience. He had an almost unlimited reper- 
tory. At this time he was being patronized by I think 
Mrs. Whitney, and he was called up at about four o'clock 
one morning by her secretary [who said], "Carl, I've got 
a party that's dying on ray hands. You've got to come 
right down." 

"Oh-h-h," he said, "I'm asleep. I can't do it." 
She said, "You know where your bread and butter come 
from; you be here in half an hour." 


Carl went dovm as soon as he could and found an al- 
most impossible party ranged around the walls , half alive. 
He set himself in the middle and started telling stories, 
and at seven a.m. the party was going strong. 

He was forthright in his expression of his opinion. 
At one time he'd been to a concert of a first performance 
of a work of Ernest Bloch, and afterwards to Mr. Pulitzer's 
house^ where everybody was to meet Mr. Bloch. 

Ruggles avoided Mr. Bloch as well as he could, until 
finally, Mr. Bloch came up to him and said, "Mr. Ruggles, 
I am Ernest Bloch. What do you think of my composition?" 

And Ruggles, with a curl of the lip which was ini- 
mitable, took a firm stance and leaned backwards, looking 
him in the eye, and said, "Nothing at all," waiting to 
see what Mr. Bloch was going to do. [laughter] I don't 
know. I wasn't there, but this is the story. He had pic- 
turesque ways of describing people. 



TUSLER: Can we go back first today while you make some 
more remarks about what it was like teaching at the In- 
stitute of Musical Art? 

SEEGER: I find myself in the habit of discounting the 
'20's and my withdrawal from contemporary life. Thinking 
over the last tape, I think I have probably exaggerated 
my increasing loneliness in New York from I922 to I929. 
There were only seven years there, and perhaps the lone- 
liness is accented by the fact that I had decided to give 
up composition and that I couldn't wrestle with the pro- 
blems of musicology that were pressing upon me. I prac- 
tically came to the conclusion with regard to the musi- 
cology that speech could not express what I had in mind, 
admitting, however, that my speech technique was very 

The activity at the Institute of Musical Art was 
very limited, also. It would be hard to give anybody in 
touch with contemporary music education in the '60's an 
idea of what music education was in the '20' s, in what 
was at that time the best conservatory of music in the 
country. It was fairly well endowed by wealthy New Yorkers 
and had back of it the prestige of the Damrosches, old 


Leopold, the father of Walter and Frank Damrosch; the 
pretty new little building on 122nd Street and Claremont 
Avenue; and the very strict adherence to what were con- 
sidered the highest values of the German tradition. 

There were first-class teachers in every department. 
The lectures were sops to Cerberus. The students had to 
take them. The marks could not be based on any pretense 
of scholarship. A history of music in a lecture course 
once a week for students who didn't see any reason why 
they should study it couldn't amount to very much. The 
course in mythology, epic and romantic poetry might be 
considered to have interested them even less. The rea- 
son that the course was given was that most of the operas 
up to that time had been built on mythological and ro- 
mantic subjects. I think my predecessors in giving those 
courses stuck pretty closely to the repertoire of the 
Metropolitan Opera and the symphonic poems that were given 
by the symphony orchestras and perhaps the words to which 
some of the great romantic songs were set. My interpreta- 
tion of the subject followed my own interest, and I learned 
a very great deal in the course of preparing those lectures, 
which were never the same in any successive year. I was 
led off into arithmetical mysticism, magic squares, crosses, 
and so forth, tying them in with the arithmetical mysticism 


of Dante's Divine Comedy , and some of the music theory 
of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and I even excited 
some of the students who had not only musical talent but 
a certain amount of talent in the gymnastics of words. 
I wound up, of course, with the Wagner operas, and so 
was able to get away with some of the other and wilder 
excursions into the Veda, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, 
Taoism, and Mohammedanism. The students were made to work 
very hard at their instrument and on their music note pa- 

The late '20's and the early '30's precipitated a 
student awakening, very much of the same sort that has 
happened in Berkeley at the University of California in 
the '60' s. Those that were disturbed by the stock mar- 
ket crash of 1929 and the early miseries of the Depression, 
which of course were felt in New York almost immediately, 
gradually had black marks set up against their names in 
the office of employment in the Institute, through which 
many of the best undergraduate and graduate students were 
able to supplement their meager income by professional 
engagements. The situation got so bad in I932, I think 
it was, that some of them were able to glimpse through 
my lectures on mythology, epic and romantic poetry that 
my viewpoint was not quite as conservative as that of 


most of the teachers and, of course, the trustees and 
director of the Institute. I had made a point of never 
having any outside contact with the students at the In- 
stitute. I scarcely knew their names; they were just 
numbers. I had burned my fingers in Berkeley by coming 
too close to the radical-minded, and I had decided it 
was no use, that I couldn't do anything about it, so the 
students were numbers. But in spite of this policy, we 
drew closer to each other, as some of them not only took 
all my lecture courses (which they had to I'm afraid) but 
spent a couple of years in my piano ensemble classes, 
where the bars between personalities were lowered under 
the excitement of keeping places in reading at sight, up 
to time, with dynamics and nuance. We'd all get tremen- 
dously excited, and we got to know each other pretty well. 

So in about I931 or 1932 , they came to me with a 
hard-luck story that those with black marks against them 
were not being recommended any more to as many jobs as 
they were worthy of, and that some students who were less 
able were getting the recommendations. They wanted a place 
to meet, frankly, where they could organize, and the In- 
stitute would not allow them to meet in the building. 
Nowadays, they would have met in someone's room, but they 
came from all over greater New York and sometimes from 


out in the country, and there was not the freedom that 
would allow the boys and the girls to go to each other's 
rooms . 

I had started to teach at the New School for Social 
Research. I put the matter up to Alvin [Saunders] John- 
son, the director, and he said, "Why, sure, let 'em come 
down here and meet." So they met at the New School. 
Word getting around later, this was not helpful to my 
standing with the administration, which had already been 
blackened by my desire to divorce my wife Constance who 
was almost, as I think I've said somewhere, an adopted 
child of Frank Damrosch, the Warburgs, and other trus- 

During the '20' s, a wealthy silk merchant and manu- 
facturer named Juilllard set up the Juilliard School of 
Music in an office building down off Park or Lexington 
Avenue, in the fifties, I think, or upper forties. The 
director or president was John Erskine, one of the brighter 
literary lights of the day, a man of the world, a wit, a 
stylist of a sort, and a very charming person. 

I had been doing what I could during the '20's to 
organize a society for musicology. I felt that I needed 
musicological contacts, and I was not able to make them 
easily; in the early '20' s I was not able to make them at 


all by myself. 0. G. Sonneck, who had left the Library 
of Congress and had taken up the position of what you 
might call music director of G. Schirmer and Company, and 
edited the Musical Quarterly , was ill, misanthropic, and 
pessimistic; and while we were good friends, I couldn't 
get him to do much of anything. Waldo Selden Pratt, whose 
position I took in lecturing at the Institute, was also 
elderly, mostly interested in hymnology, and not interes- 
ted in anything much after I85O. Leo Lewis at Tufts I 
had met but did not think very much of. The most help- 
ful man was Otto Kinkeldey, who was chief of the music 
section of the New York Public Library, and who had aided 
me in some of my preparation for my lectures at the Insti- 
tute. He was a historian, German-American, but German- 
trained. We never became very close. 

I granted that the historical orientation in musi- 
cology was as important as the systematic, but my interest 
was the systematic. Perhaps I had better define them 
here, although I've defined them in various written pa- 
pers. I defined the historical orientation as the study 
of music, or the looking at music, in general space and 
time. It was the main orientation in European musicology; 
in fact, to all intents and purposes it was the only 
orientation. The systematic orientation I define as 


the looking at music in its own space and time. Such a 
radical notion, of course, found no echo in any living 
person in the '20's in the United States. They thought 
I was simply a freak. I was not able to express myself 
very v;ell, which made the understanding of my viewpoint 
still more difficult. 

As soon as Juilliard set up his foundation and Er- 
skine got it going under way, I went down and presented 
my plan. I had a nice letter from Erskine afterv/ards, 
which said I had presented my subject very ably, but he 
thought that while eventually the foundation might be 
interested in musicology, in the near future it was in- 
terested in singers and players of music and, to a cer- 
tain extent, composers. Period. 

TUSLER: You were giving no classes in musicology at the 

SEEGER: No. There was no interest in musicology at the 
Institute. I don't know that Frank Damrosch even read 
any of my three papers that were published while I was 
there, one in the Educational Review , and the other two 
in the Musical Quarterly . If he had read them he might 
have said, "Well, Charlie's got a great head, but this 
is all pretty much off in fairyland." 

I tried by correspondence and by conversation with 


Sonneck to draw Carl Engel from the Library of Congress-- 
Engel had taken Sonneck' s place--and I'd had correspon- 
dence with Pratt, Leo Lewis, and a couple of others whose 
names I forget now. I didn't think much of Kinkeldey in 
that connection because I had not realized that he v;as 
interested; we'd talked a little bit; but while they all 
thought that something should be done, no one would take 
the lead, and I being so much younger than the others felt 
that I should not take the lead. Also, I didn't know how. 
TUSLER: What was your aim? Did you wish to form an or- 

SEEGER: I wanted to form a musicological society, that 
would pick up the fragile little strand of interest that 
had been broken by the demise of the Union Musicologique 
and its forerunner, the International Music Society, whose 
section I spoke of in an earlier tape (at which Kinkeldey 
had been present, but I never knew it until years and 
years afterwards, in fact, I think until sometime in the 
'50' s). Even he never reminded me of it. Well, nothing 

With the gradual drawing together of different strands 
in the environment in my own thinking and in my own feel- 
ing in late I929, due perhaps to little Mrs. Walton's hav- 
ing set up something like a little salon of modern music 


enthusiasts (we'd call them avante-garde now), these 
various strands began to come together. My teaching of 
Ruth drew my own musical ideas together, and ray point 
always with her was that what I was interested in in 
composition was trying to connect the head and the heart 
in the tradition of my old teacher, whom I think I spoke 
about in the previous tape, who said, "Herr Seeger, there 
are two things in music. There is a head (and he tapped 
his head), and the heart (and he tapped his chest). The 
head alone is nothing. The heart alone is nothing. Mu- 
sic begins when you connect the two." 

This struck me as a very nice way of putting the 
whole matter. Ruth was enthusiastic about it, too. She 
was more able to connect her head with the heart than I 
was. My head and my heart were light-years apart. 1 
couldn't approve of what I liked, and I couldn't like what 
I approved. I had been drawing them a little bit closer 
together, and during the year's teaching of Ruth, they 
came quite close together. I could almost say that I 
could like what I approved and approve what I liked, but 
not during I929 and 1930, although 1 felt the things 
were coming closer and closer. Of course, they came clo- 
ser the more I fell in love with Ruth. 

About the end of December, 1 think in 1929 or 1930, 


it occurred to me that perhaps I was competent to begin 
to do something now about musicological organization^ 
I was 44 years old and the old fellows had mostly died 
off. So I went down to Kinkeldey and we talked over the 
possibility of getting together a little group in New 
York that would just talk about music seriously. He 
was not in favor of the word "musicology," but he vrould 
tolerate my using it. As a result of a couple of con- 
versations, we finally decided that we would get together 
with three other people, and we would discuss the possi- 
bility of meeting once a month and talking seriously about 
music. We could only find three others in New York whom 
we thought could talk about music on the level that we 
wanted to talk about it: Joseph Yasser, a Russian emigre, 
who had written a remarkable book on tonality, then in 
manuscript,* but he had written a couple of articles that 
had called our attention to him--he'd come to the United 
States by way of China; Joseph Schillinger, another Russian 
emigre, who had formerly been quite an important official 
in the Bolshevik music setup, but not being sympathetic 
to Bolshevism, he escaped and came to the United States 
by way of China, too--he had produced what was then a 
rather novel theory of writing music by algebraic formulas, 

*A Theory of Evolving Tonality (New York, 1932). 


following [Sergey Ivanovich] Taneyev, whose work on coun- 
terpoint Kinkeldey and I were familiar with. 

The fifth member was Henry Cowell, my old pupil, 
whom I had sent to study with [Erich Moritz von] Horn- 
"bostel in Berlin and who had brought me back the aston- 
ishing news which I had no idea of before of the Berlin 
Phonogramm-Archiv and of the small group of comparative 
musicologists that had been working in Berlin from about 
1900. I knew that they were working, and knew that Horn- 
bostel was the outstanding man, and that's one of the 
reasons that I sent Henry to him, but I had no conception 
of the emergence of a new discipline. I thought I was 
dreaming of it myself , but not knowing how to go about 
founding a musicology that was a worldwide musicology. 
I thought perhaps the best way I could do it would be 
through the little group in New York. Well, by that time 
Henry had brought me back this news, by the time we got 
together and started to form the New York Musicological 

The first meeting was held at Mrs. Walton's house; 
she gave us refreshments afterwards. I wanted it to be 
a strictly scholarly, expert discussion. I had a faith- 
ful student in May DeForest, the daughter of a wealthy 
New York family, one branch of which were friends of my 


family's, and Ruth was also interested in the approach^ 
but to their rage, I would not allow them in the room 
in which the five musicologists, who didn't call them- 
selves musicologists yet, were to meet. There were two 
folding doors between the dining room and the living 
room of Mrs. Walton's apartment on Central Park West, 
and they sat on one side of the folding doors, which were 
closed, and listened through a crack in the door. [laugh- 
ter] Miss DeForest's roommate. Miss Dunlop, a Scottish- 
English girl who was an expert stenographer, sat on the 
other side of the door and was supposed to take minutes. 

The discussion went well, and we decided we'd meet 
in a month and that Kinkeldey would read a paper. The 
reason I wanted to exclude the women was because music 
up to that time in the United States was supposed to be 
a woman's job, and I and other musicians felt the scorn 
of the average American when he heard that you were a 
musician. I can remember when I first started in New 
York, back in 1912: I was at a fashionable dinner and 
when they asked me what I was going to do, I said I was 
a composer. 

"A composer? What's a composer?" 

I said, "I compose music." 

"Oh, listen to him! He composes music! Did you 


ever hear anything so funny? Women do that! " 

Men were not supposed to compose music. In fact, 
my own family felt very much the same way. My father, 
though he was an amateur in all the arts and wrote some 
very pretty little songs, when I told him I wanted to 
be a musician, said, "But, Don" (I was called Don because 
I was born in Mexico), "gentlemen are not musicians." 

And that was the attitude of the average gentleman 
in the Americas, and the average man from the gentleman 
class on down. The country was very socially classified 
at the time. It is very hard for us to realize in the 
'60's, how close to a European class system we had come 
in 1900, and I912 even, in the United States. Class and 
status are still talked about, but they're a little bit 
laughed about. In those days they were sacred cows. So 
we kept the women out of this talk of the musicologists 
because only women's clubs talked about music in the 
United States at that time, and we wanted to make it per- 
fectly clear that we were men, and that we had a right 
to talk about music, and women weren't in on it. [laugh- 
ter] Well, of course, in the next meetings, the women 
were in on it, but there were usually only one or two 
women to anywhere from three to (eventually) twenty or 
more men. 

I must say a word about what I had learned at the yogi 


colony up the river. I've forgotten now just exactly 
how much in detail I went into that matter. The brand 
of yoga, or "ySg'," as it's properly pronounced, that 
I was taught up there was the so-called Gatastha (later 
known as "Hatha") yoga. The six yogas were considered to 
be equally important, in what struck me from my reading 
under Ryder in Berkeley as the most authoritative Hindu 
tradition. The emphasis in Nyack was placed on the physi- 
cal yoga. Dr. Bernard was unquestionably an expert in 
this, although when I went there, to the Clarkstown Coun- 
try Club, I had no way of judging to what extent he was 
proficient in the discipline. One night I happened to 
go into the meeting room early. It was dark before the 
Saturday night meeting, and there were some lights down 
at the further end, so I vient on to where there was a 
small group of the members under an electric light hang- 
ing from the ceiling; the doctor was there with a white 
cloth in his hand, and several large skewers about seven 
inches long — I should say they were triangular at the 
broadest [point] and about one-fourth inch or five-six- 
teenths of an inch thick, and he was putting these skewers 
through Dr. Bernard's tongue. The frenum was cut so that 
the tongue could stick 'way out. There were two skewers 
in the tongue when I came there, and a third was being 
put in. 


I watched the process very carefully, because I'd 
read ahout it. There was a very small drop of blood at 
the bottom of the skewer, but that was all. In the very 
high-powered bright light that was shining right above 
Dr. Bernard's face, which was slightly upturned, I could 
see his forehead and his eyebrows and his eyelashes and 
nostrils, the tongue and the lips, very clearly. I could 
also see with a somewhat less brilliant light his hands 
deliberately hanging down by his sides. There was not 
a tremor in any part of the face as the skewer was put 
in and removed. The small drop of blood v;as taken up 
in the handkerchief. After the skewers were all removed, 
he put his tongue back in his mouth and talked perfectly 
naturally. It was quite obvious that he could do some 
of the miraculous things that were talked about in the 

One day we were talking out on the lawn. There was 
nobody behind him, but as he was talking he looked care- 
fully and suddenly did a back flip, threw himself right 
over, a head somersault in the air and landed on his feet, 
[while he] kept on talking as if nothing had happened. I 
had seen Mei Lan-fang by that time, and remembered a fa- 
mous duel in one of the operas in which, when the sword 
was (supposedly) rammed through the villain, the villain 
did that same thing. He did a complete back flip, landed 


on his teet, and walked off. (Death in a duel, portrayed 
that way, I can assure any reader of this oral transmis- 
sion, is to me a thousand times more moving than the pro- 
tagonist sinking down on the ground and imitating a phy- 
sical death. ) 

Furthermore, some of the students at the Clarkstown 
Country Club could do some rather amazing things. One 
member. Sir Paul Dukes (he may be still alive, but per- 
haps he wouldn't mind if he's still alive my quoting 
him), stood up in a leotard with a full glass of water 
about a yard behind his heels. He bent himself backwards 
very slowly, picked up the edge of the glass in his teeth, 
drank the water by bending back toward a standing posi- 
tion, when it was empty put it back down on the floor, 
and then resumed the standing position. 

There was one more thing that Dr. Bernard was able 
to do with the yoga discipline. He had very strong con- 
trol of the members. There was no questioning it. The 
membership must have been up to one hundred or two hundred, 
drawn from all over the world, poor people, wealthy people, 
all thrown in together and on the surface treated alike 3 
but under the surface, the wealthy had much more close 
attention than the poor did. Another remarkable thing 
about the ashram was that there were favorites. Some of 


the members got more than others, and others like myself 
got very little, for I was in a head-on collision with 
the doctor on fundamental philosophical matters; although 
it never appeared in words, it was quite clear in what 
we call the affections. I was tolerated, and I was han- 
ded over for instruction to one of the assistants. 

Dr. Bernard felt that the swamis who would come over 
from India to spread the gospel of the Vedanta were in 
error in that they emphasized the Jnana Yoga, that is, 
the intellectual yoga, and the devotional yoga (Bhakti), 
as being the basis upon which the discipline of yoga could 
become established in the United States. Those were fac- 
tors, he admitted, but his idea of the American culture 
was that it was a money culture, and that yoga had to be 
adapted to a money culture; in other words, it had to 
be sold. To sell it meant making money; and his way of 
making money was to give wealthy women (and maybe wealthy 
men; I don't know about the wealthy men, but to give the 
wealthy women--! know there were quite a few there) train- 
ing that they were not able to get from psychiatrists 
at the time. We had any number of Freudian cases that 
had either petered out or gone askew, and several of the 
students who had gone through this regime were getting 
along much better under Dr. Bernard's treatment. 


As time went on, I became more and more convinced 
that I was not getting what I ought to be able to get 
from Dr. Bernard, and finally it came to a point where 
I began to realize that I was getting something that I 
shouldn't get. I've always been very flexible, and I 
could do many bending tricks that no one else there could. 
They got me up to exhibit before a class one day, and 
one of the girls said, "My God, that ain't a man, it's 
a woim! " [laughter] Finally, I began to have some pains 
and I went to a doctor about it, and he said, "Well, what 
exercises have you been doing?" I told him what I was 
doing and he said, "My God, man. You'll split a gut. 
Don't ever do such a thing." 

A couple of other things happened, so I gave up my 
membership and my instruction. I had, however, accustomed 
myself to exercise two hours a day and I realized that 
dropping it off suddenly might be a bad thing, so I tapered 
if off, and in the course of about six years, by about 
193^5 I had given up the exercise completely. But it 
had done me an enormous amount of good physically. 

One of the most alarming pieces of mal-education in 
this experience was in the matter of breath holding. I'd 
read about the yogi who was buried for three weeks under 
six feet of earth under the twenty-four-hour surveillance 
of British Army officers, and then was resuscitated when 


he was dug up, and I was a little bit inclined to say 
that perhaps these things might be possible; and there 
were matters of hypnotism. So I put myself assiduously 
to work out the breath-holding techniques. My teacher 
was of little assistance to me after I reached the three- 
minute period. He didn't seem to be interested. I con- 
cluded he couldn't hold it any longer himself. As I 
pushed it up to four, five, and six minutes--I thought 
there was no harm in trying to do it--I began to have 
some very interesting experiences. I won't go into de- 
tails, but sometime around in I927, i think, or I928, 
when I must have left the place, I pushed it up to fif- 
teen and had begun to find myself uninterested in breath- 
ing. You want to breathe up to a certain point, and then 
your chest begins to go up and down very fast, not with 
breathing, but just nervously; and that calms down, and 
after a while, you begin to just not be interested in 
breathing; you don't have to breathe. 

One day, the day that I happened to look at the clock 
and see it was fifteen minutes, I said to myself, "My 
God. Nobody knows I'm up here. I won't be noticed per- 
haps for a week. Suppose I hold my breath for a week? 
Would they know how to resuscitate me?" So I decided I'd 
better not play with that sort of thing any more. 


Years afterwards, I discovered from one of the fore- 
most teachers at Nyack that none of them ever tried to 
hold their breath more than six minutes. The experiences 
that you have in this very elementary stretch of the dis- 
cipline is enough to make you realize that there must be 
something in it that we in the Occident ought to know 
more about. I had found that this breath holding was 
extremely useful to me in many practical occasions in 
life. I won't go into the details about them, but I can 
almost say that the remembrance to take a full breath or 
two and hold it has been extremely useful to me ever since. 
TUSLER: I would like you to go back before we get too 
far away from the Institute of Musical Art and talk a 
little bit more about Frank Damrosch. I gather that his 
attitude was very conservative about everything. 
SEEGER: Oh, yes, there are a couple things there that 
I promised to put on this tape. One of the outstanding 
points that Dr. Bernard emphasized in yoga was that you 
just didn't pay any attention to society. Society was 
made up by a low class of human being, and it was legiti- 
mate prey for any intelligent person to make use of. You 
learned to control your thoughts, you learned to control 
your emotions, and you learned to direct your thoughts 
and direct your emotions into channels that would benefit 


you. You didn't give a damn about benefitting anybody 
else. This, you see, was exactly the opposite of the 
state of mind that I had been in in Berkeley, when I had 
worked myself into a physical nervous breakdown because 
of too much concern for my brother man. It was an ex- 
cellent antidote to the situation, and in drawing these 
various strands together in I929 and I93O, I was quite 
aware that I had the two in hand, so that I could dis- 
tinguish between the two and then try to unite the two— 
in other words, to try to define my concern to society 
and my concern for myself in common terms, and make de- 
cisions on the basis of a fifty-fifty balance between them. 

The work at the Institute had been to a large extent 
de-emotionallzed for me by Frank Damrosch's not wanting 
me to deal with any music after 1900. At the end of my 
first year there, I had brought the students up to I90O 
and then spoken of Erik Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Schoenberg, 
whose early works I had in hand. 

I was called into Damrosch's office shortly after- 
wards. where he was in great perturbation, saying, "Charlie, 
I hear you've been lecturing on this man Schoenberg. Don't 
you realize that he is of the gutter? It's nasty. It's 
disgusting. It's evil." 

Well, we talked about it for a while, because we were 


very good friends. I said^ "If it's your policy to have 
me stop at I9OO, I'll be very glad to," so he patted me 
on the back and said, "That's all right. That's fine," 
and we came to a modus vivendi . 

During the '20' s, my whole emotional musical life 
was being, you see, torn to pieces between my love for 
the pre-1900 music and my admiration for the post-1900 
music, which simply didn't agree emotionally. They were 
two entirely different things and I couldn't put them 
together, so that a great deal of the vfork at the Insti- 
tute was denatured, so to speak, for me, especially that 
which had to do with the teaching of music, my fourth 
lecture which I haven' t spoken much about, where I was in 
charge of the preparatory centers, small children's clas- 
ses, conducting by teachers in the Institute and graduate 
and competent students in the Institute. I had " to soft 
pedal; my philosophy was: "I can't do anything about so- 
ciety so there's no use trying, and here in the Institute 
where they don't want me to do anything about society, 
except pre-1900 society which doesn't exist any more, 
I'll just disconnect when it comes to anything that has 
to do with contemporary life; as long as it has to do with 
life before I9OO, I can have a balanced attitude and a 
fairly 'balanced teaching capability,'" as they say nowadays 


This is interesting. I spend a certain amount of 
time on this here, because six years later it begins to 
be resolved. I was unable to relate the two things, the 
twentieth-century music and the pre-twentieth-century 
music, society and the individual--the individual being 
me. But by six years later, they began to get related. 

Now let's see, we'll have to pick up the tape where 
we left off last time. I had said good-bye to Ruth; she 
had gone off to Europe; we kept up a lively correspondence, 
and she composed steadily. Her early works were done by 
the Novembre Gruppe in Berlin. She came to know all the 
contemporary musicians, called on Webern and Berg, and 
had very interesting conversations with them. 
TUSLER: Was she writing in that style herself? 
SEEGER: No, she was writing in her own style. I was 
rather anxious for her not to get too mixed up with the 
European teachers, because by that time I had become 
fairly confident that the United States was giving birth 
to its own compositional style (it was really aborning 
at the time, and since the early '30' s, it's been shown 
to be the case), so that I was not anxious for her to be- 
come a twelve-tone row-er or a V/ebernite, although she 
had leanings in that direction, as I did too, or get mixed 
up with quarter-tones or any of the other special disci- 
plines that were in vogue in Europe at that time, especially 


some of the French ones which I considered to be very 
hostile to the development of an American compositional 

I got my divorce; Ruth and I were married. We set 
up housekeeping in New York. The Depression became worse 
and worse. The combined situation at the Institute, the 
disapproval of Damrosch who didn't want to have anything 
to do with me on account of my divorce, the new adminis- 
tration of the Juilliard School which had taken over the 
old Institute, the disapproval of my helping the dissident 
students, and I think a certain disapproval of Erskine of 
my lectures, caused me to be separated from the Institute. 
Excepting for the income, I was very glad to be rid of 
it. I had become interested in other things. 

The New School for Social Research had set up its 
new building in 1931, and Henry Cowell, who had been giv- 
ing some lectures there on the music cultures of the world, 
asked me to go In with him and teach half a year v;hile he 
taught the other half-year. He was spending his time al- 
ternately in California and in New York at the time. I 
started off the Music Cultures of the World course in the 
new building in January, 1931. 

TUSLER: You were no longer, then, teaching at the Insti- 


SEEGER: I was still teaching at the Institute, and I 
had a number of private classes. One most interesting 
one was made up of five people: an elderly steel manu- 
facturer, a young lawyer, a middle-aged lawyer, a literary 
agent, and the best girl of the young lawyer. We met at 
the apartment of the elderly lawyer, had a good dinner, 
sat around an open fire, and I talked about their ama- 
teurish approach to music. V/e usually would take a sym- 
phony and I would analyze it for them. I still treasure 
the letter that they wrote me at the end of it. My paid 
pupils were gradually saying they couldn't keep up the 
full fee or couldn't pay any fee, and Ruth and I had less 
and less to live on as the Institute tapered off rather 
gradually, and the New School for Social Research didn't 
develop financially as we'd hoped it would. 

I'll never forget my interview with Alvin Johnson 
at the end of the first term of teaching at the New School. 
He was a most lovable and admirable man, and his business 
office had made me out a check for one-half the amount 
of the contract. I needed the other half. If I hadn't 
really needed it pretty badly, I would have done nothing 
about it, but I really needed that other half. So I went 
to him and put my hand on his and said, "I know how it 
is. Dr. Johnson; you have this beautiful new building 


and hardly enough money to run the school^ but I've re- 
ceived a check for only half of the contract and much 
against my inclination^ I'm having to ask you to give me 
the rest." 

He said, "Well, there's one thing about it--the one 
course you've given and the other course you've advised 
me on are the two most profitable ones we've given," so 
that assuaged my feelings a little bit. 

TUSLER: Were they having particular troubles because of 
the Depression? 

SEEGER: They had a terrible time. The wealthy men and 
women who'd backed the New School did dig into their re- 
serves to keep it alive. 

The most exciting contact at the New School was [Tho- 
mas Hart] Benton, the painter. I'd known him for some 
time. He was a boon companion of Carl Ruggles', and he 
had been an abstract painter, doing very much in painting 
what I had been trying to do in music. 

One day, the story goes, when the budget was very 
low, he looked up at his wife Rita and said, "Rita, there 
must be something the matter with my painting. Who am I 
painting for? I'm painting for the American people. If 
the people in America don't like my [work] well enough to 
pay for it, at least to give us a decent living, there 
must be something the matter with the painting. It's 


not for me to say there's something the matter with the 
people. That romantic belief is no more valid. I'm go- 
ing to begin to paint the American people." 

And he did; and one of the first things he did was 
to paint a mural for the New School for Social Research. 
I think it was on the second floor in a room about thirty 
or forty feet square^ not a high ceiling^ but with only 
two windows and a door. He covered the rest of the walls 
with a fresco of American life. I still think it's a 
great accomplishment. 

We had a dedication of it^ and Tom came to me and 
asked me if I could play a guitar or banjo. "Oh," I 
saidj "when I was a boy I used to play a guitar just for 
the fun of it; I can't play a banjo." 

He said, "Well, I'd like to inaugurate this room, to 
baptize it with some American folk music. I can play a 
harmonica, and such and -such of my students can play the 
banjo, guitar and mandolin. Will you come and rehearse 
with us?" 

I said, "Why, sure, of course I will," so we rehearsed 
and we worked up a small program--I ' ve forgotten how long 
it took, eighteen or twenty minutes, something like that. 
We sat ourselves down on four or five chairs comfortably 
in the middle of this room. There were a couple of people 
looking at the murals. As the music spread out into the 


other halls, more and more people came in. We finally 
had to crouch over our instruments, jammed in like sar- 
dines, while a couple of hundred people packed themselves 
in that little room and applauded again and again. We 
had to play our program over I don't know how many times. 
The evening probably did give a fillip to donations; I 
hope it did. By that time Tom had begun to get some 
well-paying commissions, so he threw a magnificent New 
Year's Eve party, with dozens and dozens of eggs and crates 
of whiskey that still somewhat enlivened the early De- 

The little musicological society grew. The first 
meeting was by Kinkeldey, who presented a set of five 
equal-tempered gongs which he and the professor of phy- 
sics at Cornell had had manufactured. 


NOVEMBER 10, I966 

TUSLER: I believe you have one more story to add to the 
record about the composer Henry Cowell, when he was a 
student at the Institute. 

SEEGER: Yes. As I recorded in one of the early tapes, 
Henry and I had decided that universality was one of the 
things that we were interested in in music, and that 
therefore it would be a good idea for him to have in his 
musical education a pretty thorough going-over of the 
old traditions and as much association with the new as 
he could, and everything else in between. When he finally 
left California and got out of the Army, he presented 
himself according to plan at the Institute of Musical 
Art as a student and was properly enrolled with my recom- 
mendation. Not long after he began his studies--some 
six weeks or so, I believe it was--he handed in one of 
the little- known chorales harmonized by Johann Sebastian 
Bach as his harmony exercise, and it came back covered 
with blue pencil marks. The denouement In the class when 
it turned out to be a Bach chorale could be imagined. 
[laughter] The whole matter was promptly referred to 
Frank Damroschj Henry was called up to the office and 
promptly fired. [laughter] 


I think this deviltry was quite original with Henry, 
but might have been an emulation of Carl Ruggles' exper- 
ience at Harvard where he handed in a little- known Schu- 
bert song in a class in song writing. Well, that sort 
of thing's probably gone on throughout history. It's a 
complete misunderstanding of the nature of discipline by 
the student and the teacher. They should have laughed 
it off and gotten down to business, but they didn't see 

TUSLER: Who was his teacher? 

SEEGER: A man named [Alfred M.] Richardson, a dry little 
pedagogue who followed George Wedge and Percy Goetschius. 

I was thinking at this point, at about the midpoint 
of this series of dictations, that in between these Thurs- 
days I frequently Jibe at myself for taking them as ap- 
parently seriously as I do. As merely one of an uncounted 
billion of little units of a minor encrustation on a 
minor planet of a minor solar system, and perhaps a minor 
galaxy, and perhaps maybe even a minor galactic system, it 
sometimes seems as if the spending of fifteen hours talk- 
ing about oneself should be a rather humorous affair; but 
after all, the galactic systems and the encrustations and 
everything else to do with the phenomenological universe 
are the things that are given to us, and about all that 
we can give to the universe is our own values. And so 


the values are here, the main things that we're talking 
about; hopefully they are arranged so that the lesser 
values are omitted, but they do sometimes intrude. 

The period of the Depression during which I was in 
New York, roughly speaking, I929 to the end of 1935, is 
the span of time that we were talking about in the last 
tape. Of the three or four strands most important to me 
during these six years, the compositional strand was pe- 
tering out very rapidly. I had long given up composition; 
during the '20's I was interested in other peoples' com- 
position. And I was interested in the teaching of it, 
which developed into a theory in the book that I referred 
to, which has never been published and I hope never will 
be unless as a historical curiosity. But by about 1932 
or 1933:, an event of importance happened in which this 
compositional interest, the teaching interest, the musi- 
cological interest, the social situation and the concern 
with the misery of the people, the increasing disillusion- 
ment with teaching, the very sharp decrease in my personal 
income, and of course a number of lesser strands, all be- 
came focused in one point. 

Ruth and I were living in Greenwich Village, and one 
day Henry Cowell told me of a group of young composers 
who were trying to do something about the Depression. We 


got to talking about the Depression, and Henry brought 
up the point in that connection. He said, "Looking back 
to the days in Berkeley when we thought that we were to 
blame because we couldn't connect our music with the so- 
cial situation, you might be interested in this little 
group. Don't you want to come around sometime?" 

So Ruth and I went around. Of course, the occasion 
for the going around was a lecture by me. Being forewarned 
that they were Communist oriented, I designed a lecture 
on the "dictatorship of the linguistic j" for the unini- 
tiated reader, of course, it was to be understood that it 
was a parody of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." 
I conceived of language as underlying any social, economic, 
or philosophical theory or system, and I wanted to see 
how the Communists would take my underpinning the founda- 
tions of their Communism with a rather fluid, tricky, or 
perhaps treacherous art called "language." They were 
quite impressed by having "a well-known musicologist" 
speak to them, and had neither the wit nor the Marxism 
to argue against it. 

So we had a love feast, and I found them a very in- 
teresting group. One of the men, Lan Adomian, now I think 
a Mexican citizen and living in Mexico (he was a displaced 
Russian in the first place, either born of Russian parents 


in New York or immigrated), had a small band of volun- 
teers who would go off on picket lines and form accom- 
paniments to the picketing songs; they were composing 
picketing songs. The upshot of the situation was that 
both Ruth and I felt that here was the missing link in 
the book that I had written. The book that I had written 
was predicated on the validity of a theory of composition 
which was entirely intrinsic to music--that is, oblivious 
to any extrinsic influences. I had indicated in the pre- 
face of the book that of course outside events did influ- 
ence music, but we hadn't the slightest idea how. 

(I'm reminded of a recent volume, published I think 
this year or last year by a member of the staff of the 
Music Department of Berkeley, which tries to do just the 
same thing. The little pamphlet that goes out with the 
notice quotes a number of pages from the book that deal 
with Mozart. If you sift the paragraphs and the sentences 
in these three or four pages about Mozart, you'll find 
that Mozart composed the kind of music that the social 
situation he lived in required him to write. There's al- 
most no tracing of the technique of Mozart in purely 
musical terms. It's traced almost entirely in non-musi- 
cal terms, completely contradicting, apparently, the the- 
sis of the book. ) 


Ruth and I took this little Composers' Collective, 
as it was called, very seriously. The headquarters was 
somewhere just south of l4th Street — 11th, 12th, or 13th 
Street, somewhere in there. I think the collective paid 
for the dirty little loft room, with a possible piano, 
for our weekly meetings, and we all pitched in to writing 
songs for the unemployed, for the picketers, for the stri- 
kers, for union meetings, and such things. Gradually the 
small group of five or six attracted more and more mem- 
bers, until along in 1933 and 193-^ a^nd 1935 ^ we had a 
membership of something like twenty-four technically pro- 
ficient composers, ranging in age from [my age]--I think 
I was the oldest--on down. Someday I'll make public a 
list of the membership by the names that they went by. 
Many of the people used assumed names. I think that per- 
haps now with the possibility of a rebirth of McCarthyism 
in the United States it might be fairer to leave out the 
names of these people, but it should be known for future 
history. I don't know where I'll leave those names. I 
should attend to this sometime while the tending is good. 
I can mention one name because the man is dead, and that 
is Marc Blitzstein, one of the most brilliant members. 
TUSLER: Were they mostly well-known people? 
SEEGER: Oh, practically all of them either were well 
known or have since become well known. When I say 


practically all^ I mean half of them. Four or five of 
them are among the best-known composers in the United 
States . 

TUSLER: Were they under any pressure at that time for 
this activity? 

SEEGER: People didn't bother in those days about having 
their name associated with a Communist -affiliated group-- 
I wouldn't say "dominated" group, but I really think it 
was more dominated than people realized at the time. It 
was very sympathetic to Communism. You see. Communism 
in the United States in the early '30's was still idealis- 
tic. It still had around it the aura of the early Bolshe- 
vism, which was experimental in all the arts; and this 
group of young musicians and medium and even older musi- 
cians represented the leaders of the avant-garde, as they 
call it now, but of "modern" music, in the '30's. They 
not only wrote many of the principal articles in Modern 
Music , but in other journals. Their compositions were 
anathematized by the leading critics. They were played 
at the concerts at the International Composers' Guild and 
the League of Composers, and they were beginning to be 
published. They were in those days what are now the 
classics of the avant-garde. Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle 
Will Rock came out or was written along during the period 


of the collective. 

Hanns Eisler, the outstanding European composer of 
this persuasion, came to the United States at this time, 
fleeing from Hitler. His appearance at the collective 
was memorable. He was welcomed at a concert in an audi- 
torium hack of Carnegie Hall (I've forgotten what it's 
called, the Shriners or something like that, the Masonic 
Temple--I don't know what it was). A concert was put on 
to welcome him, and he was introduced. It was the worst- 
managed concert I think I've ever attended. For myself, 
as an admirer of Eisler's work, it was unmitigated tra- 

Since the whole thing was more or less sponsored by 
the Communist Party, I sent the Daily Worker in a review 
the next day of the mishmashing of this reception for 
what was probably the most outstanding Communist musician 
of the day. Whether Eisler was a Communist I don't know, 
but he was certainly very sympathetic to Communism. Com- 
munism, as I say, in those days represented the only poli- 
tical-economic-social philosophy that offered anything in 
the way of a tangible escape from the philosophy that had 
put us into the Depression--namely, the Coolidge-Hoover 
laissez-faire. My review was a denunciation of the ef- 
ficiency of the party in managing this reception, and I 


urged a public apology to Eisler. I didn't have a tele- 
phoney I was^ as they say in the United States, "contact- 
ed" (I never use the verb "to contact"), and asked if I 
would go down and discuss the review with the editors of 
the Daily Worker , because they would like to publish it 
but wondered if I could soft-pedal it a little bit. So 
I went down and agreed to a certain amount of soft-pedal- 
ing, and the review was published. 

The next day 1 met Eisler, and we hit up a very close 
friendship. He was a pupil of Schoenberg, a little round 
man of early middle age, who looked as if he might have 
run a lunch counter or a small haberdashery shop some- 
where down on the Lower East Side. He had an extraordi- 
nary mind and was quite a brilliant conversationalist. 
His collaboration with Brecht is well known, and one of 
the works that I had especially admired was his Massnahme, 
for which Brecht wrote the words and Eisler the music, 
a teaching of the Communist discipline. 

Needless to say, with all this contact with Communism, 
and having welcomed the Russian Revolution in the first 
place, even when I was back in Berkeley, Ruth and I were 
in the way of becoming very loyal fringe members of the 
Communist front. It's very hard for Americans in the 
present day to realize how many intellectuals in the 


early '30's defended Russia and the Communist movement 
and the Communist philosophy. People like myself ^ who'd 
tried in vain to make head or tail out of Marx and saw 
perfectly clearly its datedness in evolutionary philoso- 
phiesj had no trouble in disposing of the fallacies; but, 
of course, it made us quite unable to talk with the people 
who regarded Marx and Engels as the, not authors neces- 
sarily, but inscribers of the "divine word." 

We had no conception of the change that had taken, 
and was taking place in early Stalinism. The famous purge 
trials, which came up in 1933^ were not translated into 
English. They were reported only by English translations 
of Russian foreign news, which was of course composed by 
the Soviet government and English anti-Communist reports 
of the trials. So we wrote off these trials, as far as 
we knew them (we knew them only from the New York Times 
and such sources); we wrote off the unfavorable aspect of 
the trials and tried to give them the very best appearance 
we could, although they were a little bit unsettling. 

Now to come back to the collective: the weekly meet- 
ings were really quite exciting. The Communist Party had 
just published our first Workers' Song Book , copies of 
which are pretty rare now. Eisler was asked for his cri- 
ticism of the anthology and sat down at the piano and went 


through it, making really a brilliant critique of the 
whole thing. I won't go into any more detail on that 
here. He was in New York for a while and attended ir- 
regularly. He had meanwhile gotten a job making a film 
for the Standard Oil Company. The prospect of a student 
of Schoenberg writing the music for a propaganda film 
for the Standard Oil Company sent us into gales of laugh- 
ter, [laughter] I think he used an electric guitar^ I'm 
not sure; just with six instruments, as I remember. He 
got the better of us. Everyone liked the music; it was 
considered a tremendous success and led to his obtaining 
more and more commissions for writing music for Hollywood 
films. I'll speak of this later on; I mustn't forget to 
speak of my visit to his villa in Bel-Air in the wartime 
'40'Sj where he was living while he was composing the 
music for films for Hollywood. 

Now let me see_, how did this collective go on? A 
couple of us got the idea that the old form of the round 
might be used, so we started writing rounds with somewhat 
satiric verses on the Du Pont brothers. Father Coughlin, 
President Roosevelt, who'd just been elected and was bury- 
ing hogs and burning wheat; some of them really were very 
good. I remember one written by Elie Siegmeister (I think 
Elie Siegmeister won't mind my putting in his name here). 


[Sings]: "Three brothers named Du Pont; patriots are 
they; they make their money from munitions in an honest 
way. They love their country, right or wrong, but when 
yen or lira come along, they always very cheerfully to 
anyone will sell shells that will all armor pierce and 
armor that will stop each shell; there were three bro- 
thers named Du Pont. . ." [laughter] One of my rounds 
was reported to us as having been heard sung by a truck 
driver in Louisiana a year later. It was on the subject 
of John D. Let me see if I can remember that. I must 
put it in here. "Oh joy upon this earth to live and 
see the day, when Rockefeller senior shall up to me and 
say, 'Comrade, can you spare a dime?'" 

One of the most memorable events in this Composers' 
Collective was the appearance of Aunt Molly Jackson, 
the Kentucky coal miner's wife, traditional ballad sin- 
ger and union organizer. Aunt Molly had been taken to 
the border of Harlan County, Kentucky, along about I933 
or 1934 and told to get out and stay out if she wanted 
to stay alive. She and the other members of her family 
wrote union organizational words to traditional ballads. 
Her ballad of Harry Sims has been put on records; many 
people sing it nowadays. She was in a way quite a great 
person. For the old English ballad, for instance, which 


has the refrain [Sings]: "Oh lay the lily low, oh lay 
the lily low," she said, "Join the CIO, oh join the CIO." 

She came in one day, introduced I won't say by whom, 
and we all were respectful to her, because she had by 
that time quite a reputation. Her reputation lay in 
having carried two guns and having more notches on them 
than she would readily acknowledge. However, we couldn't 
make anything out of her, and she couldn't make anything 
out of us. The last 1 remember of Aunt Molly was that 
she was sitting way of f in the corner of this large loft 
room, while we excitedly went over our lucubrations at 
the piano. I was sorry for her and for ourselves at not 
being able to get together, and I went up to her after- 
wards, I remember, telling her, "Aunt Molly, I know you 
can't make anything out of this, and we can't make any- 
thing out of you, but it's our fault. You're on the right 
track. You go out and keep on doing what you're doing. 
Maybe we'll learn someday how to do things." 

The next most memorable event of this collective (I 
mustn't draw this out too long, but you see, it's more 
or less the beginning of this protest song writing that's 
going around nowadays) was a competition for a May Day 
song announced in the old New Masses ; the words were cho- 
sen first and published, and we all went to v;riting the 


music with a will. Needless to say, Aaron Copland's 
music won. We had a large meeting; I don't know how 
many people were there, "but there must have been fifteen 
or twenty who had competed in the competition. I hap- 
pened to be chairman and closed the discussion in this 
way: "Of course, Aaron, we all know your song is the 
best piece of music that was written. It really is a 
beautiful song, but I have this one question: will it 
ever be sung on a picket line, at a union organization 
meeting, or at a strikers' meeting?" 

Well, there was a unanimous judgment that it never 
would be. It had modulations and skips in it that the 
average person couldn't manage. You had to be a pretty 
good musician to sing it. It was a swell song. When it 
came to my song, which I purposely put last, I introduced 
it with a little preface, "Now, of course, this is the 
worst song of the lot. But I will put this up to you: 
let any ordinary American hear it twice and he'll be 
able to sing along with it. Isn't that so?" And they 
agreed it was. I had by that time gotten the Aunt Molly 
idea, the hybrid and imitation hillbilly type of song. 
(I could write a better one now, knowing much more about 
hillbilly.) Shortly after this, I left for V/ashington. 

Now I must go back and pick up some of the other 
strands. We had had a number of concerts, and Ruth wrote 


several compositions. She wrote two songs with piano 
accompaniment which were performed at an Olympiad, as 
they called it, both of them, I think, written in English 
by a Chinese-American, one on the Sacco-Vanzettl trial, 
and the other called "Chinaman Laundryman," detailing 
the miserable experience of the Chinese-American discrimi- 
nation at the time. I'm going to try to see if I can't 
get those things played now; I think perhaps the audiences 
are about ready for them. She published some more less 
controversial compositions, but I had less and less to 
do with the compositional end of things. 

My interests were more and more with the small New 
York Musicological Society, which had thriven. We con- 
tinued meeting at Mrs. Walton's house and the meetings 
attracted more and more people, and were more and more 
worthwhile. None of the papers were historical. Of 
the thirty papers of the period from I93O to 1935, most 
of them were by the more or less regular members; occa- 
sionally we'd have a paper by a visitor. The rules of 
the meetings were that everybody present must comment on 
the paper whether they knew anything about the subject 
being dealt with or not. If they didn't know anything 
about the subject dealt with, they were to comment on the 
method of study disclosed or the presentation. Once or 


twice every year we had round robins. I remember one 
on the correlation of the parameters of color and tone 
that attracted twenty-four participants. There were 
several painters present^ Tom Benton among others, com- 
mercial artists, advertising technicians, psychologists, 
acousticians, composers; and it was quite an exciting 
meeting. [Leo] Theremin was there, who had invented 
the instrument whose pitch you varied by nearlng your 
hand to a magnetic rod. Theremin's instruments were 
beginning to be used in nightclubs and occasionally by 
sjnnphony orchestras, as by Leopold Stokowski. 

Carl Ruggles' compositions were being increasingly 
played. Varese's works were getting around; Henry Cowell's 
works were also. 

The sessions of the muslcologlcal society held in 
Mrs. Walton's apartment were becoming known around the 
city. A number of people who were more interested in 
the history of music than in the systematic study became 
members, but they never showed up for meetings. We in 
our Intransigence more or less gloried in the theory that 
they were afraid to come, that we'd have made mincemeat 
out of them if they had. We would have attempted to show 
that they didn't know anything about history, much less 
anything about music. So we really had not only a chip 
on one shoulder, but on both. Kinkeldey showed up every 


now and then and was very sympathetic with our aims, and 
read one of his usually good papers. 
TUSLER: When did all this start? Was it in I93O? 
SEEGER: It started in I93O and went on until 1934 or 1935- 
TUSLER: Was it a formal organization at this point? 
SEEGER: It was a formal organization, oh, yes. 
TUSLER: And its name was? 

SEEGER: The New York Musicological Society. We published 
a bulletin, and it now is a collector's item. Each meet- 
ing was described in four or five lines. We had a con- 
stitution about a page long. I served as chairman most 
of the time because nobody else seemed to have the time 
to spend on it. Secretaries varied. Finally, we v;ere 
without a secretary, and a young man showed up, who was 
just back from his PhD studies at the University of Ber- 
lin, named Harold Spivacke, and I asked if he could serve 
as secretary. He said he would be delighted. So I came 
to know Spivacke, and both of us were very sjrmpathetic 
to one of the principal objectives of the New York Musi- 
cological Society, which was to form a national society. 

One day Spivacke asked me, "Would you be willing for 
me to go out and see if I could get this thing under way?" 

I said, "For God's sake, go out and do everything 
you can, and I'll help you if my help is of any use." 

So he went out. He was a born negotiator, administra- 
tor, and sized up the situation very quickly: that there 


was much more musicological interest in New York than 
just the systematic interest — in fact^ that the dominant 
interest probably was historical; and so he went around 
among the historians. 

Within a very short time — I couldn't tell you just 
how long a time it was^ but it was amazingly short--he 
came to me and said, "I think I've got the whole thing 
sewed up. There's only one condition of it, and that 
is that you'll take a back seat." 

I said, "Man alive, I'll take a back seat--I V7on't 
even belong to the new society if you'll only get it 
started. The important thing is to get that new society 

So, on June 3j 193^^5 ^e met in Mrs. Walton's apart- 
ment, by this time down on Washington Square, eleven of 
us. Kinkeldey wasn't there, but he was one of the members 
who was in the consortium, or whatever you call it. I 
called the New York Musicological Society to order and 
heard a motion that it be dissolved; the motion was secon- 
ded and the society dissolved, and then the assembled 
group decided to found a national society whose name would 
be selected later. 

I really can't tell you just what the next steps were 
and just how they followed each other. Somehow or other 
I was involved in the matter, even though I had offered 


to take a back seat. The group suggested a number of 
names; there was a great hesitancy to accept the name 
musicology. The English resistance to rausicology was 
strongly felt, and it looked as if it might be an Ameri- 
can Association for Musical Research, a term which I 
abominated. Somehow or other, I don't know how it was, 
we managed to turn it into the American Musicological 
Association and finally into the American Musicological 

TUSLER: \'Ih&t was the English resistance to musicology? 
SEEGER: The English resisted musicology as the English 
so often resist anything new, especially in academic life, 
and although the French had musicologie , the Spanish had 
musicologia , the Italians musicologia , and so forth, 
they just couldn't take it; they vmnted "musical research." 

Well, when it came to the organizational meeting at 
the old Beethoven Association, Kinkeldey of course v;as 
elected president, as he should have been. When it came 
to nominations for a first vice-president, there was a 
dead silence. Obviously, there was a problem there. Fi- 
nally, Carl Engel got up and nominated Charles Seeger; I 
bowed very appreciatively to him, and I was elected vice- 
president. But everybody understood that I would stay 
in the background. The rest of the officers were elected. 


and a meeting was announced for, I think, Philadelphia. 

At the meeting in Philadelphia (now I'm getting be- 
yond the New York period; I was already by this time 
down in Washington, I think), I read a paper "Systematic 
and Historical Orientations in Musicology," in which I 
claimed that they were equally important peers of one 
another, that as much attention should be given to system 
as to history, that as much as possible we should try to 
balance the two. As I got up to read my paper, my coat 
got a crinkle in it and two pennies dropped out on the 
hard floor, so I was fortunately able to pick them up 
and say I hoped that ray paper would be worth two pennies, 
and not merely one. You can imagine that the audience, 
which was quite small, was rather grim. Well, they took 
it, and there was no questioning, no discussion; and 
that was about the end of it. 
TUSLER: Are these proceedings published? 
SEEGER: There was no publication for the Musicological 
Society in those early days. They published abstracts, 
and they published proceedings and that sort of thing 
up to I've forgotten what year. So I sent the manuscript 
to Edward Dent, in London, and he got it published in the 
Acta Musicologica , 1939a ^ think it was. 

Mrs. Walton had become increasingly interested in 
musicology. She came to me one day in 1932 and said she 


would like to sponsor a small publication series in musi- 
cologyj, and talking the matter over we decided to set up 
the American Library of Musicology. I was president, 
perhaps president-editor, and she was secretary, and she 
decided that she could afford about $2,000 for the first 
volume. I laid out the program for the American Library 
of Musicology in my favorite pattern of fifty-fifty syste- 
matic and historical, which I 've just said I emphasized in 
a meeting of the Musicological Society five years later. 
The systematic works were to concentrate on those having 
to do with the cross-cultural theory and non-European 
musics on the assumption that enough publication was spon- 
sored already on the European or Western field. So I 
picked out Joseph Yasser's work for the first volume, 
Helen Roberts' study of the music of Southern California 
Indians for the second, and Joseph Schillinger' s mathe- 
matical theory of the arts for the third. I felt pretty 
sure that we wouldn't lack future volumes once we got 
these three published. 

Yasser's book was a little more expensive than we 
had expected. I think it came up to something like $2^500. 
It was beautifully done and has since become one of the 
classics. Helen Roberts' book hasn't attracted notice 
outside of technical circles, but it was a first-rate 
work and up to the level of her other outstanding 


publications. I wanted to have something of [George] 
Herzog, but he never wrote a book; I would have published 
collected papers of his, if we had run on farther. Be- 
fore a contemplation of Schillinger' s book was finished, 
Mrs. Walton had suffered too much financially in the 
Depression, and the library went out of business. Yasser, 
on his own, got enough money together to publish his 
Medieval Quartal Harmony . So the Library of Musicology 
folded up. 

I didn't mention the historical branch. The histori- 
cal branch was to consist at first of publications of 
the classics of musicology, of musicological theory, prin- 
cipally--on the left page, the most reliable original 
text, and on the right, an English translation. I've 
forgotten what I'd picked up for the first, but v;e never 
got that under way. 

TUSLER: Was this a function of the Musicological Society? 
SEEGER: No. It was entirely separate from the Musicolo- 
gical Society. 

A young group of Russian emigres led by Yasser formed 
in connection with the New York Musicological Society and 
had a number of meetings in Russian. 

Connected with this end of things were the courses 
in the musical cultures of the world at the New School 
for Social Research. Neither Henry nor I knew much about 


non-European musics, but we set ourselves to learning 
and then telling a class the little that we knew. But 
we did it as honestly as we could, by saying that we didn't 
know much about it, and getting live performance for 
every lecture. 

I remember when it came to Chinese music we v;ent 
to the Chinese Music Society in Chinatown. They had a 
room about fifteen feet square, quite high, with the in- 
struments that they played hung up on pegs around the 
walls. We would ask them to come up and give them a small 
fee to come up and give a performance; and then we would 
say what little we'd been able to learn from the rather 
small literature on the subject that we could put our 
hands on. They would ask us what instruments we would 
like to hear, so we would point to one instrument after 
another, and if they had the performers ready and were 
willing to get together with them, they would come up 
and play them separately, and then put them together in 
traditional groups. 

We had an old "stableboy" f rom Hoboken who couldn't speak 
English who could sit dovm with a gusla and sing Serbo- 
Croatian epics until you simply had to stop him. There 
was a group of Japanese musicians at Columbia; there 
was an excellent Syrian who played the lute and could 
talk a bit about theory; and there were tv/o Hindu musicians 


in town. I remember the young man, Sahat Laheri, who 
died a long time ago, but the older man was a superb 
tabla player. I can't remember what some of the others 
were. We obtained them sometimes from as far away as 
Boston or Philadelphia. There wasn't much money to pay 
them fees, but we managed somehow or other. 
TUSLER: What was this course called? 

SEEGER: Musical Cultures of the World, which they call 
the course here at UCLA. I had one small group that was 
more interested in theoretical study, and one man who had 
fluent German began translating some of the by now clas- 
sics of ethnomusicology--Hornbostel, Lachmann. The only 
one that he got through was Lachmann' s Musik des Orients . 

About the middle of this time, in the summer of 1933^ 
we heard that Erich von Hornbostel had fled from Germany 
and was in Switzerland. I went straight to Alvin Johnson 
and asked if he couldn't cable an invitation to a chair 
in the university in exile [which was] set up at the New 
School, which he did that night, and received an accep- 
tance reply I think the next day. 

Hornbostel and his wife and a huge shipment of li- 
brary and instruments arrived in October. I remember 
the boxes. They measured, most of them, four by four by 
six. A room in the New School was completely full of 


them^, except for a small space in the middle allowing 
for the door to be opened and tv/o or three people to 
stand there and perhaps begin to open one box. 

Hornbostel turned out to be the wonderful person 
we'd heard he was, and it was my pleasure to introduce 
him to his first seminar of two people — a rather faded 
lady, an amateur; and a middle-aged gentleman, who as 
far as I know was also an amateur. Hornbostel spent the 
two hours entirely on the old Edison cylinder phonograph. 
It was one of the most touching, one of the most moving 
experiences I ever had in my life, of an academic sort. 
The three of us sat facing a little table on which the 
little machine (it looked like a miniature sewing machine) 
was placed, and Hornbostel sat in his chair behind it; 
there was an electric light shining straight down over 
the instrument. After I finished my brief introduction, 
there was a silence, while Hornbostel looked at us with 
shining eyes, stooping over the instrument, and finally 
putting his hand on it. 

He said, "This, gentlemen and lady, is an Edison 
phonograph." His face became wreathed in an ecstasy of 
smiles. "It records music, singing, speech. It operates 
by a spring mechanism, which you wind up this way." (I 
am speaking fast; he dwelt on every word.) 


It took him two hours to explain the machine. My 
emotion in the opening of the lecture became transformed 
into a real worry that the two people wouldn't show up 
for the next meeting. [laughter] But they did, and 
things began to move. 

Henry had foresightedly bought two sets of the 
Demonstration Sammlung of the Phonogramm-Archiv in 
Berlin^ of 120 cylinders each: one of them was on deposit 
at the New School; the other Henry kept for himself. 
We had a pretty good phonograph play-off, and things 
were in the way to develop marvelously. Hornbostel 
was a cousin of the Warburgs, New York bankers, and it 
was not long after he arrived that we began talking 
about the archives in Berlin and the possibility of 
buying them from Hitler for American money, which Hitler 
was very anxious to get. Hornbostel felt sure that the 
Warburgs would give him the money, and felt also sure 
that Hitler would feel good riddance of the records, and 
while he would charge a high price, the operation could 
go through. 

So we drew up a project to found an Institute of 
Comparative Musicology to be independently set up in 
New York and headed by Hornbostel. By this time, he 
began to be ill. I think he never gave more than a few 
lectures. The New School continued to pay him his salary, 


but he was confined to his house most of the time, up 
in Scarsdale. 

By this time, Helen Roberts and George Herzog and 
I had founded the American Society for Comparative Musi- 
cology. We became worried, about 1933, in the Hitler 
attack on everything non-German, and feared that he 
would close down the little Gesellschaft zur Erforschung 
der Musik des Orients that Hornbostel, Wolf, Sachs, 
Lachmann and Schiinemann and others had recently formed 
in Berlin, that was publishing a journal, a Zeitschrift , 
which was the only publication for non-European music in 
the world at that time. So the three of us. Miss Roberts 
and Herzog and I, hastily drew up a prospectus for an 
American Society of Comparative Musicology, sent it out, 
and got about I50 members with the understanding that all 
but a dollar of the membership fees would be sent to Ber- 
lin to keep the Berlin society alive. The Berlin society 
was an international soclety--it had memberships from 
other countries than Just Germany. As things turned out, 
we did keep it alive for a few more years than it would 
have lived otherwise. The second volume came out, but 
by the time the third volume was being gotten ready, Horn- 
bostel had left, Sachs had left, Lachmann felt he must 
go, and Johannes Wolf was left as president. Finally a 


letter came from Wolf saying that he must resign from 
the organization and leave me (I was vice-chairman) in 
charge so that the seat of the society could move to 
the United States. We were able to bring out with George 
Herzog's help the last number of the little Zeitschrift 
fiir Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft , and then I wrote to 
the treasurer, asking about the remaining funds in the 
treasury. He said they had been devoted to m.ore worthy 
ends, which meant that the society, as far as its Germanic 
base went, was completely out of the picture. What records 
I had of the ASCM have been deposited in the library of 
Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. 

Just at this time, a very strange thing happened. 
Helen Roberts had designed with the help of a technician 
in New York what was to be the latest thing in electronic 
equipment for comparative musicology for her laboratory 
at Yale in the Institute of Human Relations. The equip- 
ment was built and installed by a grant from the Carnegie 
Corporation, and the Carnegie Corporation finally asked 
Miss Roberts, "Do we give this to you or to Yale?" 

Miss Roberts, of course, in the proper way, said, 
"Of course, give it to Yale." 

Very shortly afterwards the director of the insti- 
tute called Herzog and Miss Roberts up. [Continued on 
the follov/ing tape.] 



NOVEMBER 10, I966 

SEEGER: The director said, "I'm very sorry to have to 
tell you that our legal advisers tell us that we are em- 
ploying you illegally. We can't employ you any further." 

I was already moved to Washington. Herzog went to 
Columbia with his collection, part of which had been 
left him by Hornbostel, and Miss Roberts was left high 
and dry by everybody. I was too busy, and Herzog was 
too busy to do anything about the Society of Comparative 
Musicology, or the bringing out of a fourth volume of 
the Zeitschrift flir Vergleichende Musikwissenschaf t . She 
was too disgusted with the way Yale had behaved, and 
she decided to simply get out of the whole comparative 
musicological situation. She had an independent income 
and built herself a little house down at Tryon, North 

We had a small amount of money in the treasury of 
the American Society; I think it was $l40.00. Lachmann 
was in Palestine and offered to start up a new journal 
or continue the old; "But," he wrote to me, "we are not 
going to compare anything." 

^Tape V, Side One contains two separate recording sessions 


I said, "All right, do anything you want, only 
Just keep the journal going." 

We gave $100.00 to I think it was Harold Spi- 
vacke, who got another hundred from the American 
Council of Learned Societies [ACLS], and a little more 
money I think from some other place, to send over to 
Lachmann to start in with the fourth number of the 
Zeitschrift . Lachmann died; Chancellor Magnes of 
Hebrew University decided to put the money into pay- 
ing for the publication of Lachmann' s research work 
in the island of Djerba. And that's the end of the 
Gesellschaft fur Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft and 
the American Society for Comparative Musicology. The 
conglomeration of misfortunes was too much for it 
to stand. 

NOVEMBER 17, I966 

TUSLER: Earlier in the tape you spoke of drawing up 

plans with Hornbostel for an Institute of Comparative 

Musicology. That collapsed because of his death, I 


SEEGER: Yes. I still have the first draft of the 

proposal that we drew up, but with Hornbostel' s death, 

I felt that I couldn't go to the Warburgs, who were old 


friends of ray first wife's, from whom I had become es- 
tranged, and say to them, "Will you do this," with the 
idea that I would be the only person who could implement 
the situation; so the whole thing was dropped. 

The Phonogramm-Archiv went under wraps, as they 
say, for the period after Hornbostel's death. There was 
not much work for them. The Berlin society had collapsed 
because its officers were exiled or forced to resign, and 
as I understand it, the materials remained more or less 
locked up in a room until the Russians came in, and the 
first report I had was that the soldiers were seen shovel- 
ing the cylinders into large boxes for shipment to Russia. 
Those that were not destroyed in the process became part 
of an archive in St. Petersburg, which so far as I know 
has struggled along until this day. A recent traveler 
told me that the archive was there, but nothing much was 
being done with it, although there were some people in 
charge. They had made an arrangement with the West Ger- 
mans to give the West Germans a tape of what they had, 
but when George List, of the University of Indiana, and 
Moses Asch, of Folkways Records, went about bringing out 
a disc dubbing of the demonstration collection, it had 
to be made up mostly from what was left of Henry Cowell's 
two sets that he brought over in I think it was 1931^ I'm 
not sure. Berlin might have contributed a few items; I 


haven't checked on it. 

TUSLER: The American society was never an actual part 
of the Berlin society. 

SEEGER: No, the American Society for Comparative Musi- 
cology was an entirely independent organization, but we 
considered ourselves affiliated with the German Gesell- 
schaft fur Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft in that we 
sent all but one dollar of our members' dues, partly 
to keep them alive and partly to finance the journal. 
We kept the remaining dollar for our own postage, mimeo- 
graphing, and so forth. But the whole thing collapsed 
about the same time, and that was due to the transposi- 
tion of the three leading members of the American society. 
Miss Helen Roberts, George Herzog, and myself, all of 
whom found themselves suddenly in new practical situations 
in life, Herzog and myself without time to do anything 
about the situation, and Miss Roberts feeling that she 
could not carry the whole load herself. 

Now starting in on the life in Washington from 1935 
to 1955, I must say that I was entering an entirely new 
universe. I was under no misapprehensions of the time it 
would take, but I felt that I would learn a great deal. 
The pure learning was in many cases learned from the 
applied learning, and I was never one to be afraid of 
application. In fact, I felt that in myself there was 


great need of application, because I had never had a 
chance to do field work; I'd never taken a course In 
muslcology myself and was really a musicological "sport/' 
if there ever was one. 

My first job in Washington was as technical adviser 
in the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Admini- 
stration, whose fortunes were directed by Rexford Tugv/ell. 
The head of the Special Skills Division was Adrian Dorn- 
bush, a painter. We had on our staff a half-dozen pain- 
ters, Ben Shahn, Charles Pollock, the brother of the bet- 
ter-known Jackson Pollock, a man named Jones, and two 
or three other able painters. There was a specialist 
for theater, for weaving, for woodworking, interior deco- 
rating, sculpture--a very able young sculptress; and we 
made an enthusiastic and idealistic group that had Tug- 
well's complete confidence and support. We started out 
in an old loft building just off Connecticut Avenue near 
the Mayflower Hotel, but shortly were set up in a separate 
building by ourselves, which had been some kind of a small 
industrial plant--new, clean--and began to be provided 
with all the necessary equipment--a woodworking shop on 
the second floor. 

The job of the Resettlement Administration was to 
handle rural unemployment and misery, and unsound agri- 
cultural practices which partly led to the unemployment 


and misery. I was appointed to engage three hundred 
musicians to put into three hundred resettlement com- 
munities, pretty much covering the United States. A 
resettlement community was an aggregate of destitute 
farm families--one to three hundred- -drawn sometimes 
from the rural, but more often partly from the city 
slums, who were victims of dust bowls and the Depression 
generally, who were to be put in viable communities, 
on good land, under competent agricultural direction, 
with cooperative buying and marketing facilities, their 
own schools, medical services, and so forth, managed by 
regional administrators. I've forgotten how many re- 
gions there were --eight or nine, I suppose --in the coun- 
try, each one with its regional staff directed from 
Washington, where there were specialist of all kinds 
ready to help and to travel over the country seeing that 
the latest methods were being used. 

The Resettlement Administration was set up to get 
fast action. Roosevelt and his advisers knew well enough 
how long it would take to get anything done through the 
established Department of Agriculture and how completely 
altered any plan would become in the course of going 
through the administrative red tape. There was, there- 
fore, a cold war between the Department of Agriculture 
and the Resettlement Administration. The Department of 


Agriculture, of course, was totally integrated with Con- 
gress by way of the pork barrel and by way of political 
control, and the Resettlement supposedly was not. So it 
began to get under fire about as soon as it got under 
way, along with the other emergency administrations that 
Roosevelt set up, such as the WPA. 

The idealism of the Special Skills Division was 
nothing unique in the Resettlement Administration. It 
permeated everything. The architectural end of things 
was taken care of close to the cities in the way of 
building "greenbelt" communities, like Greenbelt, Washing- 
ton. The more rural communities were supposed to be 
little rural villages, which would not only be success- 
ful themselves but would give the surrounding villages 
some impulse to modernize their somewhat antique ways of 
going about things. 

I can't trace in too much detail what happened in 
the two years I worked in the Resettlement Administration. 
I was under no misapprehension of the difficulty of find- 
ing proper people to put into rural communities in the 
United States--rural and suburban, but mostly rural. My 
life in Staten Island as a boy gave me an idea of what 
suburban life was. My living in Pinehurst, North Carolina 
in the trailer had given me an idea of v;hat rural life 
was in the Southeast. I had seen something of the employment 


situation in California, especially in the inner valleys 
and among the Indians, but these were somewhat views from 
above down. I had not lived myself in any of the communi- 
ties. I could merely see from the outside some of the 
things that were wrong and some of the causes for the exis- 
tence of those things. My work in the Composers' Collec- 
tive in New York had, however, given me two or three years 
of discipline in trying to make music for people entirely 
in a different musical world from the musical world that 
I had grown up in and was trained in. 

My wife and I and two children and a friend of hers, 
Margaret Valiant, drove down to Washington in our little 
Chevrolet, packed to the ceiling with worldly goods, the 
rest to follow in a van. We found lodging was difficult 
to obtain and things not too easy, but whatever difficul- 
ties there were, were overcome in the enthusiasm of the 
work. The first person that I engaged was, I think^ Miss 
Valiant, and I'll tell something more of her history pre- 
sently. Herbert Haufrecht, one of the members of the old 
collective, was taken on, and I managed to get ten musi- 
cians into ten communities. By that time. Congress began 
to whittle away the budget, and the Special Skills Division 
and Resettlement Administration began to wither away. We 
had about two years of exciting work. 

I spent a lot of time in the Library of Congress 


reading up on folklore, about which I knew nothing. I 
had already made the acquaintance of John Lomax and his 
son Alan early in the '30' s, and that's rather amusing; 
I might tell the story here. 

Henry Cowell and I were commissioned by Macmillan 
Company to pass judgment on John Lomax' s book, American 
Ballads and Folk Songs . Part of the ceremonies was a 
presentation to us of the material by John and Alan, who 
was a young man and extremely belligerent once he saw 
these two highbrow musicians who were going to pass on 
something they knew nothing about. Cowell and I were 
tremendously enthusiastic. John's truculence was im- 
mediately mollified, and even Alan came around eventually. 
The book was published later. 

John was at that time honorary dollar-a-year curator 
of the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of 
Congress. The archive had been set up by Carl Engel, chief 
of the music division, and had been headed by Robert W. 
Gordon, who had a very proprietary attitude about the 
material and his activity with it. The archive was housed 
at the top of one of the front towers of the old building 
of the library, the southeast tower, a huge room some 
forty or fifty feet square which was never cleaned. My 
first visit to it was shortly after Lomax took over. There 


were piles of records on the floor, anywhere from two 
to four feet high, most of them without covers--covered 
with dust, no catalog; only some rickety machines for 
playing; a table and a desk or two; it was the strangest 
looking place you ever got into. Gordon, who was a pas- 
sionate folklorist, had been a younger member of the staff 
of the University of California in Berkeley when I was 
there and we were good friends, but he was very difficult 
to get along with and spent a great deal of time in the 
field. John Lomax, Sr., the story goes, got him fired, 
got the archive out of the attic and began to make some- 
thing of it. Cataloging had begun and was being continued, 
and I began to hear the records. 

One of my first acts in the Resettlement Administra- 
tion was to order a Presto sound recorder, which plowed 
channels in aluminum discs. I was able to get off in the 
field occasionally to make some records, but I was able 
to send some of my young people off into the field with 
the machine. Among these, Sidney Robertson, who later 
married Henry Cowell, was most successful. On the whole, 
she made something like 150 discs of 78 rpm, much good 
stuff. Her outstanding achievement was the complete re- 
pertory of Mrs. Emma Dusenberry, an elderly blind v/oman 
living in Mena, Arkansas, whose family had left Georgia 
with Emma when she was eleven and lived in Arkansas ever 



When she was a girl, Emma had planned to learn all 
the songs in the world. Mrs. Cowell asked her, "V7ell, 
did you?" 

She said, "No." 

"Why?" said Mrs. Cowell. 

She said, "They kept up making them so fast." 

But Emma had a repertory of about 120 songs, many 
of them old English ballads. Her husband had come to 
Arkansas through the Lake States and had something of a 
northern repertory. They courted each other in music. 
He had died; she had lived on, and had a lively memory. 

One of my other field workers never used the record- 
er, but he took tunes down by notation. (Incidentally, 
he wrote down the variant of "The Wayfaring Stranger" 
that I published and Burl Ives sang and put on records 
and has now become part of the repertory of the folk 
music revival in the United States.) He was an ex-Social- 
ist and did some very interesting work picking up ballads 
of union organization, picket lines, and unrest in the 
southeastern towns. 

Each field worker was given two weeks ' training in 
Washington before going out into the field. Perhaps I 
might read one or two of the directives. The first job 
of the worker in any one of these resettlement communities 


was to survey the resources of the community, and by the 
resources of the community, I meant the human resources 
first and the material ones afterwards. Life would not 
be too easy from the point of view of the comforts of 
home, but their first job was to make themselves liked. 
To make themselves liked, perhaps the first thing to do 
was to make themselves useful. The members of a resettle- 
ment community lived in all kinds of makeshift ways while 
they built their houses, barns, and other buildings. The 
government would build the houses, but with the help of 
the members of the community. A store and a school were 
being built, an administrative center, and so forth and 
so on, at the same time that the houses were being built, 
and it was pioneering work. So there was plenty to do for 
any person "out of Washington," as they said, regardless 
of what he was supposed to do. 

The last thing my music workers were to do was to try 
to do anything in music that they wanted to do or con- 
sidered themselves capable of doing. The first thing they 
had to do, after making themselves liked and useful, was 
to find out what was going on in the way of music --what 
music the people had in their heads and hands, what they 
liked, and what they would like to do in the way of music. 
This, you can imagine, would be difficult for an unemployed 
musician from the city, with the inferiority pressures upon 


him for being squeezed out of professional life and seeing 
here a chance to have a small income and at last to prac- 
tice his beloved art. I won't say that I was very success- 
ful in keeping them from doing it, but at least I did the 
best I could to try to persuade them that they shouldn't 
try to do it, until they were perfectly sure that what 
they did would be liked. 

I can best show how the program worked by telling 
the story of Miss Valiant's entrance into the Cherrylake 
community in western Florida. Miss Valiant got off the 
train at a little way station at night. She was supposed 
to be met, to be taken to the community five or ten miles 
away in the back country. No one came up to her. Every- 
body else left, except an old man who was way up at the 
end of the platform who was leaning against a pillar and 
smoking . 

She went up to him and she said, "Good evening," and 
he grunted a return, asking him if he were supposed to meet 
somebody at the train; she was expecting to have somebody 
meet her and there was nobody there but him, so she was 
emboldened to address him. It turned out that she had to 
volunteer that she wanted to go to Cherrylake. "I'm the 
new music teacher there," she said. 

The first word that she got out of him that seemed 
at all interested was, "Who said you weren't?" [laughter] 


Well, they got to talking, and after a while he 
volunteered that she had a strange accent. 

"Oh," she said, "I'll get over that." To which he 
replied, "You'd better." [laughter] 

He was the man sent for her, and she finally got to 
Cherrylake. It was cold, it was drizzly and a pretty 
miserable evening; hut she was hauled up on the platform 
of the shed where the tools were kept, which was the only 
place where the community could meet, and introduced by the 
community manager with: "Well, folks, you know the things 
we want from Washington. We need a doctor, we need some 
trained nurses, v;e need more drugs, we need this, that, 
and the other thing, and v^hat do you think they sent us? 
They sent us a music teacher. Here she is." [laughter] 
So he got off the platform. 

Miss Valiant did the best she could with that intro- 
duction, but I understand that she wasn't any too welcome 
news. The first thing she did was to pitch in to the mu- 
sic in the school. They had a rackety old piano, but with 
her guitar she was able to get the children singing with 
her and to teach some of the teachers some songs, so that 
things began to go there. Fortunately, Miss Valiant had 
come from the South herself--Memphis, I believe--and had 
a fairly good repertory of local songs in the vernacular. 


We'd call it "old-timey" music now, or country music, and 
she knew some blues. 

Fortunately also she had taken a cours de couture in 
Paris, and one of the first opportunities she seized upon 
was a chance to show the women how to make their clothes. 
They were dressed in old rags that they had gotten through 
charity and what was left of a wardrobe of years of pover- 
ty--many of them had used feed sacks and flour sacks. She 
showed them how to cut up feed sacks and flour sacks into 
fairly attractive dresses, and then she put on, within a 
week or two, a fashion show to entertain the community. 
Each woman ascended a little bit of a platform, I think 
in the school building, while Miss Valiant played on the 
old piano that woman's theme song. In other words, she 
knit music into the situation. 

The next opportunity came to her in the form of a 
visit from the local hillbilly band. Some of the boys 
whose families were in the community sang in the honky- 
tonks on the mainline from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, 
and they heard there was a music teacher up here at Cherry- 
lake, so they thought they'd go up and have some fun with 

Well, they found that Miss Valiant was a rather pretty 
girl in her middle thirties, and an interesting session was 
started. They had their instruments along, so she was quick 


to get them playing. "What should v;e play?" Well, she 
suggested something she thought they would know, of course. 
Oh, yes, they would play that, so they played that. 

After they'd played a number of her suggestions, 
she thought she might risk one that perhaps they didn't 
know. "No, don't know that; how does that go?" She 
reached over and took the guitar and sang it very pret- 
tily. They were conquered. Shortly afterwards she be- 
came one of them as far as the appearances in the Cherry- 
lake community [were concerned]. 

Word got around about this little success, and the 
next opportunity that came Miss Valiant's way was the 
local baseball team. They had an idea that they wanted 
to play a neighboring team, and they needed uniforms. So 
they thought they'd give a prize fight, but they didn't 
have much in the way of pugilists, so they'd need some 
music to sort of string along through the intermissions. 
They came to the source of music in the community. Miss 
"Valiant, and they hit up a very nice cooperative idea. 

Just as they were going out. Miss Valiant said, "Well, 
hold on just a minute. We haven't talked about financial 
affairs at all." 

"Oh," they said, "financial af fairs--we' ve got to 
have all the money for the uniforms." 

"Well," she said, "no split for the music, no m.usic." 


So she got her split, with the idea that the money would 
go to get musical instruments for the children in the 
school. The gate was sufficiently large to net something 
at the music end of things. 

By this time_, the next item on the agenda, of course 
already planned in Washington, was to put on during the 
summer some kind of a show, some kind of a theatrical per- 
formance that would jell the community. Naturally, you 
get a lot of poor people together, living in very diffi- 
cult conditions, being directed by people that they con- 
sidered foreigners, and there's a lot of friction. One 
of the things that music was supposed to do, and had al- 
ready done, was to begin to pull things together and make 
people get along with each other; and of course one of 
the biggest ways in which this could be done would be 
through a theatrical performance which would have a cer- 
tain number of principals, choruses, dancers, and involve 
the audience if possible. 

So presently a telegram came to my desk: "Send at 
once four scripts for such-and-such principals," the idea 
being that of course these scripts would be rented from 
some rental agency. The answer, of course, was: "No scripts 
being sent. Make the play out of the life of the com- 
munity yourselves." 

Miss Valiant then got busy. Talking around, it seemed 


that a large obstacle was looming. The dominant reli- 
gious sect was rather bigoted and led by a man who would 
not have anything to do with the theater. The theater 
was an instrument of the devil. To get around him. Miss 
Valiant thought she would use some strategy. His wife 
picked up an egg or a cup of flour occasionally by doing 
some of the women's hair, so Miss Valiant had her hair 
done. She said she never had such an experience in her 
life; but in the course of it she was able to sound this 
woman out about the opposition that might be expected 
from this religious group. 

"Well," the woman said, "my husband would never al- 
low it. You simply can't have anything to do with this 
kind of thing. It's the work of the devil, and we are 
God-fearing people." 

"Well, wait a minute," Miss Valiant said, "this is 
different. This is a different sort of thing. Let me 
tell you." 

She was clever enough to have outlined a scenario 
which was typical of the recent history of the people in 
the community, and particularly this woman and her hus- 
band's life. 

"Oh," said the woman, "now, that's all right. I 
think perhaps my husband might approve." 

So that evening she met with the husband, who was 


furious at the very Idea at the beginning, and at the end 
consented to take the leading man's part, with his wife 
taking the part of the leading woman. 

Well, things went on. The hillbilly band did the 
music, and the children sang, and the v/omen's group sang, 
and they had a square dance, and everything went very 
nicely. By this time. Miss "Valiant's stock was at the 
top. The weather began to get a little bit better; people 
moved out of the chicken houses into the barn, which they'd 
been building, and built the house while they lived in 
the barn and then were moving into the house. The furni- 
ture was being sent to them from factories that had been 
making it on the designs of the Special Skills Division 
woodworking shop. The women had been taught weaving by 
the weaving specialist in the Special Skills Division, and 
were weaving some of their own cloth by this time. There 
were some paintings in the administrative building in the 
school; some books were beginning to be in the library, 
and the community was getting on its way. 

To make a long story short, when Miss Valiant's time 
was up after five months or six months, a meeting was 
called. The project manager got up and said, "Folks, I 
have some bad news for you. You remember v/hen Miss Valiant 
came here, how I introduced her? 1 said what we needed 
from Washington was such and such, and now they'd sent us 


a music woman? I'm here to eat crow. It's the best 
thing Washington ever sent us." 

Of course, she had a tremendous ovation. The suc- 
cess became known in Washington and she was sent off to 
another community, where she was introduced by Mrs. Roose- 

My other nine music specialists scarcely made a rip- 
ple in the situation. They simply couldn't do what they 
were supposed to do. They were supposed to get out and 
learn how to sing the songs that the people sang in the 
community, and they didn't do it. There was one man who 
gave a recital of Italian opera arias, in spite of the rule 
against such a thing. One man did learn a great deal, 
and that was Herbert Haufrecht, who has made a specialty 
of work in folk music ever since. 

My own work progressed; I began to talk to the other 
technical people in VJashington about the integration of 
music with their work. I wrote a syllabus of instructions 
for the Recreation Division. Ben[jamin Albert] Botkin 
and I worked up a project for a folk arts collection expe- 
dition. I came to realize vihat could be learned through 
the historical records survey of the WPA about the history 
of the United States, and in those two years had a course 
in the history of the United States, taught me mostly by 


my colleagues. I had a good deal of work in the field, 
mostly in the Southeast, not any farther north than New 

Unfortunately a very disagreeable situation had ari- 
sen in the whole Roosevelt administration about these 
emergency agencies. One day when I was not in the office, 
there was a telephone call to Mr. Tugv/ell from (Senator) 
Vinson. He demanded to know before the next morning how 
it was that the Resettlement Administration had published 
a song called "The Candidate's a Dodger." He said this 
was an Insult not only to the elected officials in the 
United States, but to the American government as a whole 
and the American people thereby; unless satisfactory ex- 
planation of the song was given, the Resettlement Adminis- 
tration budget would be reduced from $14,000,000 to 
$1,000,000. As I say, I was out of the office and never 
knew anything about this. The telephone call was routed 
to Mr. Dornbush. Fortunately, we had the knowledge that 
this song," which is one of the songs sung by Emma Dusenberry 
and collected by Mrs. Cowell,wasa Democratic campaign 
song of the election of l884, between Cleveland and Blaine, 
which was a very dirty election in which Blaine was charged 
with having been a dodger in the Civil War--that is, pay- 
ing somebody to take his place in the army. The explanation 


assuaged the senator, who was a staunch Democrat. 

You could imagine the naivete of this city musician 
thinking that he could get away with a thing like that in 
Washington! But this was typical of the intellectual 
idealist who was called in in those days, and still is. 
In Washington. The State Department is full of them. 
You see them going in there and doing the same thing, 
even to the present day, though nowadays they usually have 
some coaching from the outside, and we never had any 
coaching. The song goes [sings]: "The candidate's a 
dodger, yes, a well-knovm dodger, yes, the candidate's 
a dodger, yes, and I'm a dodger, too. He'll meet you 
and greet you and ask you for a vote, hut look out, boys, 
he's a dodgin' for a note. Yes, we're all dodgers, dod- 
gin', dodgin', dodgin', yes, we're all dodgin' our way 
through the world. Well, the preacher's a dodger, the 
lawyer's a dodger, the lover's a dodger, and the farmer's 
a dodger, he'll make a living just as sure as you were 
born." It's a nice song, a parody of that type of thing 
which was probably produced in one of the early agrarian 
reform movements in the country; it might have been the 
Grange, it might have been any farmers' organization. 

We did the same thing with our painters. Early in 
the life of the Resettlement Administration, they wanted 
paintings to put up in post offices all through the country, 


showing the reasons for the setting up of these emergen- 
cy agencies, to try to get some support from the grass 
roots that would show in Congress so that the emergency 
agencies could be kept alive. 

Well, they had an exhibition of fifty paintings, and 
the administrative people from Tugwell's office came around 
to look at them. The verdict was, "My God , you can't put 
those things up in post offices! " 

"Where did you get these?" I asked of a painter. 

The answer was on a certain river down in Georgia. 
"Oh, there was some splendid misery there." 

Well, four of the paintings were selected as being 
possible, with some changes. Whether the painters con- 
sented to change them I don't know, but I do believe a 
few did get put up. 

TUSLER: What was the objection to them? The subject 

SEEGER: Yes, they were too miserable. They said, "We 
can't represent the American country in this light. We'd 
have all the senators and representatives in the country 
down on us. We couldn't present ourselves to the outside 
world this way; in other words, we can' t have people see 
how this Depression has hit the country." 

Another rather pretty example of the excess idealism 
of these agencies was our sculptress. She was engaged to 


make a number of small bas-reliefs to be put under the 
big windows in the school in Greenbelt, Washington, il- 
lustrating the Bill of Rights. One was to secure Justice, 
and her clay sketch was this: about tv;o feet long and 
about one foot high; on the left, a man hanging from a 
rope; on the right, a man sitting on a dais or a desk with 
the head looking the opposite direction; in front of him, 
twelve men all looking the opposite direction. You can 
imagine what the Housing Administration thought of this 
performance. She was asked to submit another model, and 
at the end of long wrangling, they finally v/atered it 
down enough to get it put up. 

Another example of this excess idealism, and also 
some very good ideas, was the [Federal] Theatre Project. 
The project had been set up almost entirely in New York. 
Did 1 tell the story of Marc Blitzstein and The Cradle 
Will Rock ? Marc Blitzstein, who was one of the members 
of our old Composers' Collective, had been working on a 
theatrical show with his own libretto and music, in which 
the leading man was Mr. Mister. When the evening of the 
first performance came, a large audience, which had grape- 
vined information of what was going on, and the performers 
appeared at the pitch-black theater. The assembled mul- 
titude was so enraged that they got hold of the manager of 
an empty theater nearby and asked if he'd open up. He did, 


for a consideration, and the whole crowd went in. There 
on the stage without scenery, just against the brick wall 
of the back of the stage, and with an old, out-of-tune 
piano. Marc Blitzstein sat down, played the orchestra 
part, and directed The Cradle Will Rock . It was a tre- 
mendous success. The next day, the seats were sold for 
six weeks in advance. 

The theater never got over it. This, plus some of 
the other successes of the same sort--the American thea- 
ter's never been the same since the VJPA Theatre Project. 
But Congress cracked dovm, closed it up. I was asked to 
write a memorandum on the subject, and I did. By this 
time I'd learned something about Washington; you couldn't 
expect anything else. It was a wonder they kept alive 
as long as they did. It would have been better if they 
had taken the idea that Miss Valiant so beautifully car- 
ried out and had worked from the grass roots up. But 
there wasn't enough time in those days; you had to start 
at the top and work down. There were too few people who 
knew that there were grass roots to work up from and 
anything else except utter poverty and deprivation; but 
that there was a whole culture of America there that could 
have been made something of, very few people had any idea. 
My friend Tom Benton had, and from him I learned a great 
deal, because he'd knocked around the country a lot. 


But that's the story of the Special Skills Division, 
so far as I can record it right here. By the time we 
were closed up, I was looking for another job, and went 
in as assistant director of the Federal Music Project. 
TUSLER: Before you go on with that, I would like to ask 
you how you had come to be part of the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration in the first place. 

SEEGER: I had gotten into the Resettlement Administration 
the way lots of people did in those days, by somebody 
who knew somebody. Charles Pollock was one of Tom Benton's 
pupils, who had played with me in the little band that 
we initiated his murals at the New School v;ith. VJhen 
they were looking around for a musician, Charles Pollock 
said, "I know just the man for you. Get him on the tele- 
phone, and he'll come down, I'm sure. This is just the 
sort of thing that will interest him." It was as simple 
as that. 

TUSLER: Was your job at the New School ending at that 

SEEGER: Well, I gave it up. I had a consultancy at a 
private school that paid me rather well, and I had some 
private students still left, and I was teaching at a small 
music school called, I think, the Metropolitan Music 
School; but this was a chance to put my musicological 
theory to work, and naturally, I jumped at it. 


The WPA Music Project didn't have any of the joy 
of the Resettlement Administration. Instead of getting 
a director of the music the way they'd gotten the direc- 
tor of the music for the Resettlement Administration, 
they engaged Nikolai Sokolov, a very competent Russian 
musician who had emigrated to this country, who thought 
American music was beneath notice and was rather con- 
temptuous of American musicians. It ' s a question whe- 
ther he'd ever even heard of the existence of the Ameri- 
can folk song at that time. He probably thought American 
popular music was pretty bad, too. So the whole orien- 
tation of the Music Project was from the Europeophile 
music viewpoint looking down upon these poor, benighted 
Americans who needed to be spoon-fed with "good" music, 
very much the point of view that I had when I departed 
in the trailer in I921 to give good music to the backward 
peoples of the United States. 

By this time, I was pretty much convinced that the 
music of the American people, what they call folk music, 
what they call country, race, western, hillbilly, what 
have you, had a lot of good stuff in it, and it was rather 
marvelous. I had been fortunate enough to meet Mrs. 
Roosevelt on a number of occasions, and this viewpoint was 
just what would please her; she had seen and heard some- 
thing of the working of the Resettlement Administration 


program, so that when the king and queen of England came 
to vist the Roosevelts later, I was asked to draw up a 
program of American folk music to entertain them in the 
East Room of the White House afterwards. Dornbush did 
the mechanical and managerial end of things, and between 
the two of us, for he had caught the virus of American 
folk music by that time, consorted in bringing up some 
of the best folk musicians we could get. We had Bascom 
Lamar Lunsford from Buncombe County, North Carolina; the 
Coon Creek Girls, who were hillbilly singers from a kind 
of a barn-dance radio show in Ohio; we had the Soco Gap 
Square Dance Team of eight couples; and I think a few 
others. The committee who is always hanging around to 
manage things at the White House managed to filter in 
some things that were rather out of key, but it was the 
folk music that gained the evening. 




SEEGER: At the afternoon rehearsal one of the aides 
came up to me and said, "Mr. Seeger, we just can't pre- 
sent this to Their Majesties. You've got to do some- 
thing about it; the racket is unbearable." The Soco 
Gap Square Dance Team danced a heavy clog, and the plat- 
form was about a foot off the hardwood floor, making a 
superb sounding board. 

So I said to him, "Don't say a word about this. I'll 
fix it upc I know the caller very well, and I'll just 
tell him to slip the word to them to just ease up on that 

"Oh," he said, "for heaven's sake, do." 

So I went up to McQueen, the caller, afterwards and 
said, "If anyone speaks to you about the clog being too 
loud, don't you pay any attention to them at all. It's 
magnificent. Some of these sillybillies around here are 
afraid that the noise will make the king and queen uncom- 
fortable, but I'll bet they'll like it." 

Well, as a technical man in the situation, I, of 

*Tape V, Side Tvro contains tv7o separate recording sessions, 


course, was not invited to the illustrious gathering, 
with its cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and senators 
and political bigwigsj but I was able to peek around 
the corner of the door and watch the faces of President 
and Mrs. Roosevelt and the king and the queen and the 
celebrated personages around them, all wreathed in smiles; 
Vice-President Garner and some of the Americans who came 
from the country had their feet tapping. We were all 
taken in and introduced afterwards, and I was very much 
pleased when--I was at the end of this long line of per- 
formers--Mrs. Roosevelt told the king and queen that I 
was the man who had planned the program; and so I had 
an especially hearty handshake from them. But it simply 
proved that this kind of music is the only kind of music 
that kings and queens, presidents and cabinet ministers 
and ambassadors could make for themselves--if only they 
dared. They can't make it very well; they can't make it 
half as well as the ordinary child could. But at least 
it is the kind of music they can try to make, and they 
can't try to make any better and they know they can't 
make any better, but whether they will or not, it gets 
a reaction out of them, _if the circumstances are such 
that it's all right from the point of view of status for 
them to accept it. 


Wellj the thing was a great success, and I still 
have a couple of recordings of the Coon Creek Girls sing- 
ing "How Many Biscuits Can You Eat," and "The Soldier 
and the Lady." 

The situation in the WPA music program when I hit 
it was very bad. I was brought into it with the infor- 
mation that Sokolov was not interested any more; all he 
wanted to do was to conduct the orchestras , and he was 
not in the office very often. His assistant, a man named 
Mayfarth, was having troubles. Mayfarth then was my di- 
rect superior, and frankly speaking, I expected to take 
over almost any time, but realized that the WPA program 
was beginning to be shut down just the way the Resettle- 
ment Administration had been, so there was not much chance 
of my doing there anything like even what I'd been able 
to do on such a small scale with the Resettlement. Still, 
I was hopeful of trying, so I produced a book full of 
memoranda about how the education work should go and how 
the program should be oriented, and so forth and so on. 
After a while Mayfarth said, "Well, there's no use your 
just sitting around here and making up memoranda; you'd 
better go out in the field and see what you're up against." 

So I went out, and he kept me going pretty busily 
through the Southeast--that is, from New York on down to 


Florida, New Orleans, Texas and Arkansas, in that tri- 
angle. I found the regional officers of the WPA heavily 
bureaucratized, and the "cultural programs," so-called, 
in the charge of women politicos who were quite charm- 
ing people, rather masculine and domineering, and not 
too difficult to get around to a viewpoint that, after 
all, this Sokoloverian highbrow music, v;hile it was very- 
respectable and all that, was a good deal of a bore. Most 
of them really liked hillbilly music better than the 
symphonic and chamber music that the Music Project was 
trying to back, and were quite frank in saying so, once 
you could assure them it would be safe for them to say 
so. So I made several warm friends among them, and things 
began to go rather well. 

But, of course, I could not even pretend to uncover 
to them my dismay at what went on in the way of music 
teaching. It was even worse than what went on in the 
North. At one union school that I saw in North Carolina, 
you could see through the boards of the floor to the 
ground underneath, and you could see the sky through the 
boards on the side of the room--the roof leaked. 

We went by one building one day driving with the 
supervisor and I said, "Hold on, that's a school over 
there, isn't it? Hadn't we better stop in and see it?" 


The supervisor was silent for a while, and said, 
"Mr. Seeger, I can't show you that." 

I said, "Well, what's the matter?" 

"It's a Negro school." 

"Well," I said, "it's a school building, isn't it?" 

She said, "Well, you can see what it is from the 

I said, "Is it worse on the inside?" She wouldn't 

I said, "Where is the teacher, and where are the 

"Oh, it's not in session now." 

"How often is it in session?" 

"Oh, a couple of months a year; they call it when 
they lay over." 

The situation was absolutely appalling. 

I had one situation to deal with that's worth putting 
on record here, with the expectation that nobody' 11 read 
this until everybody concerned is dead. In one state (I 
won't mention the state) the Washington office had been 
having a great deal of trouble with the state director 
of the WPA music. The national director, Sokolov, had 
tried to see the assistant director during a visit of 
inspection to this state, but he was unable to see him. 


He noticed that when he went to see the state director 
there were two men who met him at the elevator and took 
him up in the freight elevator, which went straight to 
the director's office. It was so arranged that all the 
people in the office were out when the national director 

These things and some other curious situations made 
Washington rather suspicious about the situation, so I 
was sent down to look into it very seriously. I went to 
see the state director and he put on a symphonic rehear- 
sal for me; a full symphony orchestra, playing Tod und 
Verkl arung of Strauss, or rather I should say, trying 
to play it. It was a million times too hard for them. 
The director tried to keep me from talking with the assis- 
tant director, but I made a date with him out of hours at 
a private house afterwards, and through him met some of 
the people on the project who played in the orchestra and 
interviewed off the project, too. They were scared to 
death until I was able to prove to them that I was out of 
Washington and I was investigating this situation with 
the idea of reporting one -hundred percent truth of it. 

As I gained their confidence, I heard an appalling 
story. People, for instance, who had no income whatever 
but a miserable emergency stipend from the government, were 


forced to leave the little shack that they might have 
built for themselves on the outskirts of some city and 
come to the capital in order to play in the symphony 
orchestra. In the capital they had to pay rent and pay 
for food that they had had to buy instead of grow in 
their little back garden or exchange for work with some 
friend 5 and the hardship was monumental. I've forgotten 
what percentage of this group of seventy-odd musicians 
were brought in from the outside, but it was quite a 
large number. Things began to become clearer and clear- 
er, and it finally turned out that this was a one-man 
tyranny on the part of practically a psychopath, who had 
sufficient strings in his hands to control the situation 
and keep himself from being bothered politically. I got 
the man fired, and a better man, the assistant, who was 
a conscientious fellow, a church choir director, put in 
his place. 

There were not many of these very bad situations to 
deal with, but the worst of all the situations that we 
had to deal with was one which arose in the national of- 
fice at the time of a calling together of the eight or 
nine regional directors to meet and plan future work. 
Plans for future work were being cut down on very gradual- 
ly, and so at great expense people were brought from 


California, from Texas, from Washington State, and from 
all over the country for a week's conference. Mayfarth 
had been presented that morning with what they call a 
"pink slip," firing him. He had refused to resign, and 
they finally told him that if he wouldn't resign they 
would fire him, and he was fired the morning that this 
conference was to get under way. This sort of thing, 
while maybe extreme in both cases and not typical of 
the administration of the ¥PA projects as a whole, was 
typical of some of the things that went on. 

During my work with the Music Project, Ben Botkin 
and I had got the Folk Arts Committee well under way, 
and Herbert Halpert, a highly competent folklorist, "bor- 
rowed" from the Theatre Project, made a several month's 
trip in an old broken-down automobile, collecting a fine 
lot of stuff from the Southeast--children' s games, tall 
stories, ballads, courting songs, all kinds of things. 
They were all put in the Library of Congress. My collec- 
tion from the Resettlement Administration went to the 
Library of Congress, and I think I was instrumental in 
getting in all about one thousand records into the Archive 
of American Folk Song during the five years in which I 
was connected with these emergency agencies. 

My contacts with the Library of Congress became 


closer and closer, and presently John Lomax asked me if 
I would do the transcription of the music for his Our 
^^'^g^-^g Country, the second volume of American songs and 
ballads. By this time I had too many other things to do 
and told him, if he would be willing, that my wife Ruth 
would be Interested in doing it, and I would, of course, 
consult in the matter. The transcriptions were eventually 
published in the book. They are models. 

By this time I began to go to meetings of the Folklore 
Society. I remember one quite delightful meeting when 
we were talking about the attitude of the conservative 
folklorists and the actual living folklore situation in 
the country, and one of our most distinguished folklorists 
spoke quite at length] at the end of it my wife Ruth, who 
became more and more indignant, burst out with, "Why, 
that's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!" [laugh- 
ter] He was an urbane, charming fellow, and a few years 
later when I met him he said, "You know, she was right." 

By 1939, my paper read at the first meeting of the 
American Musicological Society was published in the Acta 
Muslcologica . I had not gone, I think, to any earlier 
meetings, leaving them a perfectly free hand to develop 
as they wanted. In that same year, Carleton Sprague Smith, 


who was president of the American Musicological Society, 
arranged for the First International Congress of Musi- 
cology to take place in New York. He had some difficulty 
in cooperation from the still very small group of Ameri- 
can musicologists, and he came to me in despair, saying 
he couldn't get a suitable paper to lead off the congress 
with... would I please frame my paper so that it would 
throw down the gauntlet, so to speak? Nothing pleased 
me better, so I wrote a paper called "Music and Govern- 
ment: A Field for an Applied Musicology." 

A distinguished group of eight or nine Europeans 
were invited, and the typical New York conference, with 
suppers in the Rainbow Room and visits to Fraunces' 
Tavern, and so forth, quite ran beyond the pocketbooks 
of most of the members. 

I got up to read ray paper at the old Beethoven As- 
sociation, a rather pretty drawing room of an old house 
on the West Fifties. My colleagues, the historical musi- 
cologists, stayed in the hallway, and they talked so 
loudly that some people from the audience had to get up 
and shut the doors. I had a small audience, however; 
most of the Europeans, I think, were courteous enough 
to listen. At the end, the applause was adequate, the 
doors were opened, and the historians came in to listen 


to Edward Dent's paper on the Camerata, which was of 
course to be, as they expected. In his most elegant 
style. For some reason or other. Dent was pleased with 
my paper and he gave me nearly a minute's eulogy, apolo- 
gizing for the triviality of his paper which v;ould follow, 
which was upon such a small matter as over against the 
very large matters of importance that I had spoken of. 
The few words were received with deathly silence, but 
it happened that for the first time I was accepted by 
them as perhaps a gray, not an entirely black, sheep. 
Dent's paper was as exquisite as everybody had expected 
it to be. 

But the World War II had just opened, and you can 
imagine what the effect was upon the entirely European- 
oriented meeting. Many of the European members realized 
that they couldn't return, and were left high and dry in 
the United States. Every effort was made, and eventually 
successfully, to place them in American universities, and 
historical musicology became firmly established, as a 
result, by these outstanding men. 

The joke about the publication of this paper and 
the others that were read was that when it came to ac- 
tually going to print, it was wartime and the American 
Musicological Society didn't have paper. I was working 


in my next job in Washington at that time, and I got 
them paper through the Music Educators' National Confer- 
ence, an organization which was so contemptible to their 
mind that it could hardly even be mentioned in polite 
society. But the Music Educators' National Conference 
gave them the paper, and the papers read at the Inter- 
national Conference on Musicology came out under the 
joint imprint of the American Musicological Society and 
the Music Educators' National Conference, vfhich gave me 
immense pleasure. 

In this same year (it's funny hov; things happened in 
years: 1905 was one of those years; 1930 was one of 
those years; and 1939 was another), the State Department 
called four conferences on professional activity in the 
Americas. One of them v;as on Inter-American Relations 
in the Field of Music. The others were education, philo- 
sophy and letters, and fine arts. The meetings were held 
in the Library of Congress, and attended by people from 
all over the country and from some Latin American coun- 

I was a member of the organizing committee, for music, 
and it was a very good committee. It pitched right into 
the practical situation, didn't spar around about history 
and theory, and was the most efficient committee of the 


four, so efficient that it sent a memorandum to the 
State Department urging that the organizing committee 
be continued with a permanent secretary. William Berrien, 
who had been a professor of Spanish and Portuguese I 
think in the University of California, had been very 
active in the organizing committee; Harold Spivacke, 
Carleton Sprague Smith, Evans Clark, myself, Charles 
Thomson of the State Department, and a number of others 
thought very highly of him, and so we took him on as 
executive secretary. He had a little bit of an office 
in the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, right opposite the 
White House. 

Things went well; one of the recommendations of the 
committee and of the meeting was that an inter-American 
music center be set up, preferably at the Pan-American 
Union. I had my candidate and pushed him as hard as I 
could until he refused, and then they asked me if 1 would 
take the thing over. 

I said, "But I don't know anything about the situa- 
tion; I'm not a specialist in that; it's not my field; 
I'm sure we can get somebody who's more knowledgeable." 

But they couldn't find anybody more knowledgeable, 
and they continued pressing me; perhaps they'd heard of 
the organizational work in the Resettlement Administration 


and the WPA, so that it looked as if perhaps I might make 
something of it. So I said I'd take the job. I was 
cleared by the FBI, mirabile dictu , and it took about 
three months for my appointment to go through. 

During those three months I had been active editing 
the Army Song Book for the United States Army. Early in 
the war. General [Carl] Spaatz and his wife and a number 
of other ranking Army, Navy, and Air Force men had got- 
ten together, realizing that there must be an up-to-date 
Army song book. They went to Harold Spivacke at the li- 
brary to get materials, and he persuaded them that I'd 
be the person to do the editing. When we went to the WPA 
and asked for permission for me to be relieved of some of 
my work for the WPA, they first refused! Typical of the 
idealistic attitude, I was hired to do work for the VJPA, 
and by gosh, I should work for the l-TPA. Period. Present- 
ly, however, I v;as liberated of most of my work so that 
I could do it. 

The Army Song Book eventually came out in a first 
edition of five million copies. I had asked if it wouldn't 
be possible to put in a few American folk songs that I 
was sure would be popular, and I cited the fact that in 
the Civilian Conservation Corps they had made some surveys 
of what songs were most liked by the boys who were in 


those units. These were unemployed boys taken from the 
city streets and somewhat from the country, but mostly 
city, I think--perhaps a cross section of the late teen- 
agers of the American people. I can't give you the five 
that were listed: "Red River Valley" came first; "Bar- 
bara Allen" came second; and then there were three songs 
that everybody knows; I've forgotten what they are. So, 
with my argument, they said, "All right, go ahead, you 
can put in eight or nine." So I put them in, and they 
are there nov; with my piano arrangements as songs to be 
sung by the American soldiers in the field. I don't know 
how much they were actually sung, but I think they probab- 
ly were, seeing that most of these boys from their Civilian 
Conservation Corps units went into the Army. 

[When I began working on the Army Song Book , I was 
supervising the compiling] of a checklist of recorded songs 
in the Archive of American Folk Song to July 1940. The 
manual labor was done by ¥PA workers, and 1 supervised it 
with the help of Helen Bush, a cataloger at the Library 
of Congress. The work was hasty; there was no time to 
play the records over; the work had to be done on the 
basis of the envelopes. It was only when an envelope had 
nothing on the outside that we played the record to find 
out what the dickens it was; but I'm quite sure that some 


of the discs in those envelopes didn't conform to the 
titles. The work was completed and eventually printed 
by the Library of Congress in 1942 in three volumes. 

Along about this time I was able to take part in a 
meeting of the American Historical Association, which had 
one amusing episode in it that's worth recording here. 
My paper, Ben Botkin's, Jeffrey Gorer's, and two or three 
other papers were read at a meeting on the Cultural Ap- 
proach to History. I happened to be in the corridor out- 
side the meeting room when my old adviser Merriman from 
Harvard came along. I hadn't seen him since the Harvard 
days, so we shook hands and greeted each other effusively. 

When it came time to break up, I said, "Are you com- 
ing in? " 

He said, "Into what?" 

"Oh," I said, "the meeting on the cultural approach 
to history." 

"Certainly not , sir," he said, and turned on his 
heel and walked off. [laughter] The last thing he would 

It was a good meeting, but it was a meeting of the 

black sheep and the irregulars. Eventually the papers 

were published.* 

* The Cultural Approach to History , ed. Caroline F. Ware 
7¥ew York, 1940') » 


It was like a stretto in a fugue; all these dif- 
ferent strands began to draw together in 1939 . The war 
was on and it was pretty grim. So I probably could 
leave that period now and go on to the next installment, 
which would be the period of the Pan-American Union. 


TUSLER: When you left the Resettlement Administration, 
was the administration closed at that point? 
SEEGER: No. The manner of disposing of these emergen- 
cy agencies that President Roosevelt set up and that Con- 
gress did not very much approve of, because their patron- 
age privileges were rather limited and were therefore 
not too closely connected with what's ordinarily called 
the democratic processes of the United States govern- 
ment--positions were filled mostly by appointment of the 
executive branch--the manner of disposing of these agen- 
cies was to cut off a finger here and a toe there, and 
then an arm and then a leg, and then excise some of the 
internal organs, and finally change their name and turn 
over what was left to one of the regular departments of 
the government. In that way, the Historical Records Sur- 
vey was merged into the Library of Congress; the extra- 
ordinary Photographic Division of Resettlement (now known 


as the Farm Security Collection) got into Agriculture (it's 
now in the National Gallery); the theater and music were 
just lopped off and went nowhere. It was a gradual pro- 
cess; it probably took place over a couple of years in 
most of the cases. 

Did you have a successor there? 

No. Nobody took my place. 

The Music Project, then, was finished when you 





SEEGER: Miss Valiant was kept on for a little while. I 

had a desk at the office, which is what they call a courtesy 

in Washington; after you leave an agency, you have a desk 

there for a while. One day the accountants came in from 

the material supplies department, I don't know what they 

called it, and began to decide what they'd throw away and 

what they'd keep. Paint pots that had been opened and used, 

even down to half pints, were measured carefully and entered 

in the books. 

I had about one hundred aluminum dubbings of the re- 
cordings that we'd made (the originals were all by that 
time deposited in the Library of Congress), and I asked 
the men what they were going to do with these; they were 
going to throw them in the trash heap. 

So I said, "Well, could I take them?" 


They said, "Sure. They're no use." They were just 
raw material that would go into the trash heap. 

Similarly, there were a couple of model chairs made 
by the furniture department, which were never used; they 
were somewhat modernistic , perhaps you might say, and I 
asked what was going to happen to those. 

"Oh, they'll be split up into kindling wood." 

"Well, could I take them?" "Oh, sure, take it," and 
I believe to this day one of my children has one of those 
chairs. That's the way the thing went. 

TUSLER: Did you personally observe while you were there 
specific attacks on the administration other than the one 
that you already mentioned on the tape about "Vinson? 
SEEGER: No. They were continuous. The ideas of the 
young intellectuals that Roosevelt brought in to manage 
these agencies and their divisions were very often anathema 
to Congress, and they razzed the Brain Trust, as they called 
it, unmercifully, and most of those men went back to the 
academic life. A few went on into government. Take, for 
example, the head of the Historical Records Survey of the 
Works Projects Administration, which eventually became 
the Federal Works Agency, I think. Luther Evans went into 
the Library of Congress and became head librarian; from 
there he went on to the director-generalship of UNESCO. 


After his term there was over^ I think he went back into 
academic life in the United States some place; I've lost 
track of him lately. But most of the men either left the 
government entirely, or were absorbed in established agen- 
cies, or went back to their university positions. 
TUSLER: Was he in the WPA when you were? 

TUSLER: And you knew him there? 

SEEGER: Yes. He was very friendly to me. When I was in 
the gap between my service in the WPA Music Project and 
going to the Pan-American Union, I had a job with the 
National Resources Board. I think Waldo G. Leland was 
chairman of it at the time. My job was to make a biblio- 
graphy of the publications of the WPA, and Evans was a 
great help there. He later offered me a place in the 
Library of Congress for the Music Division of the Pan- 
American Union. We didn't have to take it, however, be- 
cause Dr. [Leo S.] Rowe gave us his salon. 
TUSLER: You spoke before of a kind of cold war existing 
between the Department of Agriculture and the Resettlement 

SEEGER: Yes. The bureaucrats in the Department of Agri- 
culture regarded the Resettlement Administration as really 
something that shouldn't have been set up at all. It was 


an invasion of their area, their domain^ and their pre- 
rogatives, and they were not too cooperative, as I remem- 
ber. The Resettlement Administration was set up in a way 
opposite to Agriculture. It was supposed to cooperate 
with it; and we did get some cooperation, yes. But it 
was hard sledding. I think I told the story of the time 
when I went around to the, I think, assistant director of 
the Bureau of Agricultural Extension, and tried to persuade 
him to put folk music into the 4-H Clubs and women singers 
organization, and so forth and so on; he was very friendly. 
Yes, many of the individual men were friendly, but the 
general policy was, I think, more or less at odds. The 
Department of Agriculture was just growing, then, from 
its rather small beginnings to the enormous and populous 
agency that it became in the later Roosevelt Administration. 
I remember amusingly when President Eisenhower was a candi- 
date for office, one of the things he was going to do was 
reduce personnel in Washington government offices. I think 
at the end of the first four years of Eisenhower's term of 
office, or was it the second. Agriculture doubled itself. 
TUSLER: Did you yourself have anything to do with setting 
up the program of the Resettlement Administration? 
SEEGER: I didn't have anything to do with it. 
TUSLER: It had already been devised before you came. 


SEEGER: Yes. And I made it a rule in Washington to live 
on what they used to call "the technical level." There's 
the executive level and it tapers off in its own hierar- 
chy; then there's the congressional, law-making level; 
and the Supreme Court and the courts and the judiciary-- 
but these are really more domains than levels. But the 
policy-making level on top ran rather neck and neck with 
the diplomatic set, and so forth, and that I strenuously 
avoided whenever I could. There was no use trying to mix 
the thing. The technical level was extremely interesting 
itself; you met all kinds of people from all over the 
world, and also through the United States, and it was 
completely absorbing. We were like a fish out of water 
in the diplomatic or the executive end of things. But 
you kept clear of the clerical end, which was an enormous 
multitude; you saw it on buses, and where it lived and 
how it lived you didn't know. Then there was another 
domain, which was the lobbyist domain. That, of course, 
permeated everything, but least of almost anything, the 
technical level, because they realized they couldn't get 
to first base there, anyway. 


Did you have a predecessor in your job? 

No, I was the first person there. 

What was the major difference as you look back 


at It now between your vrork in the WPA and your work in 
the Resettlement Administration? 

SEEGER: The WPA was ill-conceived from the beginning. A 
foreigner who looked down on American music should not have 
been chosen to head up such an agency. 

TUSLER: But the Resettlement Administration aimed its 
program more at the people. 

SEEGER: The Resettlement Administration was well planned 
from the beginning, except that they didn't know the coun- 
try well enough. They were politically naive, they were 
culturally naive, and they didn't realize that to build 
these Resettlement communities, they'd have to build them 
up in terms not only of the techniques of learning and en- 
gineering, but in terms of the folklore of the rural peo- 
ple and the folklore of the political parties that governed 
upwards from town to township to county to state to region 
to government. They were utterly naive there ^ they learned 
their lesson in the process of being turned out of busi- 

It's something which we have still in this country 
to learn, that the home learning of the people cannot be 
manhandled by the technical learning of the universities 
and the educated classes. We see the same thing in the 
study of folklore now in the American universities. I've 


just received off-prints of a paper that I have written 
for a festschrift for Ben Botkin, my old associate in the 
WPA, in which I twit the folklorlsts for their inability 
to extend their own field of learning into the legitimate 
areas of folklore study that have grown out of the more 
archaic folklore, which most of the folklorlsts are in- 
terested in. The study of folklore in this country was 
very largely initiated by the scholars, such men as Francis 
J. Child of Harvard and his famous big set of English and 
Scottish Popular Ballads , and it gradually spread over 
from that in a kind of a common-law marriage with the 
study of the American Indians' primitive lore, and has made 
an academic discipline which studies archaic survivals in 
the form of mostly literary sources. That folklore in the 
United States is a vastly larger and more varied field 
than academic folklore ever considers it to be is something 
they have still to learn, and [while] sitting back rather 
complacently and complaining that there are no departments 
of folklore (there are very few courses in folklore given 
and they usually have to be given in language departments 
or anthropology departments; there are very few places 
where you can get a degree in folklore), they neglect going out 
into the broad panorama of American life. They fail to realize 
that there's a folklore not only of the most backward people 


in the Appalachian Mountains, but there's a folklore of 
the local county boss and city boss, and a folklore of 
the businessman and the clerical workers and the workers 
in the factories; and if they would follow this strand 
of folklore up Into the higher echelon of the government, 
they would find that Congress runs Itself very largely 
in terms of a folklore more or less of its own, with 
its roots in the state legislatures, the state political 
parties, and the ward bosses. Then there's also, of course, 
the folklore of all the branches of human activity, whe- 
ther it's law or religion or science; so that if v;e v/ere 
going to start in such a thing as the Resettlement Ad- 
ministration or the WPA nowadays, and the leadership 
should fall into the hands of people who are not aware 
of this broader aspect of the knowledge of our own people, 
you might find not as many mistakes as were made before, 
but many of the old mistakes still are being made. 

We send, for instance, our missions into foreign 
countries, completely ignorant of the folklore of the 
traditions of the countries they're going to live in. As 
I point out in this somewhat skittish paper for the Botkin 
festschrift, they will buy themselves a state dinner in 
Indonesia and will pass to a Javanese gentleman, or pos- 
sibly even lady, the salt with the left hand, and there's 


no greater insult. Similarly, they will shoot their hand 
forward in Mohammedan countries, which is one of the worst 
things you can do; they will not belch at dinners in some 
countries, where that is a very, very impolite thing not 
to do, and so forth. Our ambassadors, ministers, secre- 
taries to embassies, down to the lowliest clerk should have 
quite a thorough course in the folklore and the customs, 
as well as the languages and the politics of the countries 
in which they're going to represent the United States; but 
we're still quite far away from that. The same old problem 
would come right now, and it's happening in the poverty 
program and things of that sort. Fortunately, in the 
Peace Corps the young people are given some training--not 
enough, but they're given some training in the customs and 
the oral traditions and manners of the country that they're 
going to work in, and that is one of the reasons why they 
are so amazingly successful in some places. 
TUSLER: In this sense of the word, folklore is really the 
same thing as the mores of the society. 

SEEGER: It practically is, yes; and it's not realized by 
people in the government still. The Great Society and the 
poverty program, the civil rights movement and lots of 
these from-above-stimulated movements of the Johnson ad- 
ministration are running into snags for the same reason 


that the Resettlement Administration ran into snags. It's 
a lack of knowledge of how the American civilization runs. 
TUSLER: Was there a significant difference in the type of 
people that were working on the WPA and the type of people 
who were working for the Resettlement Administration? 
SEEGER: Yes. I think the Resettlement was a much higher 
level. It was a higher level in music. In the Writers' 
Project it was about the same; in the Historical Records 
Survey it was the same; in the theater; and there were 
some very skilled photographers who went out and photo- 
graphed the United States from the grass roots up. No, I 
think it was just in the Federal Music Project that there 
was a rather lov/er level of qualification and competence. 
Most of the other WPA projects were better staffed_, but 
quite as naive. 

TUSLER: You spoke earlier about the idealistic crew of 
people in Washington then. 

SEEGER: Yes, that was the character of the different men 
that the Roosevelt administration first brought in. We 
all of us went in with a feeling of: at last, here's the 
chance for us to show that there's a connection between 
our aspirations and ideals and life work and techniques , 
in which we think we're quite competent, and the less pri- 
vileged of the American people, and running up against them 


was in many cases an eye-opener for anybody. 
TUSLER: Was the WPA under as much attack as the Resettle- 
ment Administration was? 

SEEGER: Yes, I think it was under attack for the same 
waste of money. What's music got to do with anything? 
Music has improved its status in the American civiliza- 
tion enormously in the last thirty years; whereas sixty 
years ago I was laughed at because I said I was going to 
be a composer, thirty years ago I received a certain amount 
of consideration and respect from ordinary, nonmusical 
Americans in the cities and often in the country. In the 
country you were considered a little queer, perhaps; but 
still, there had been music men there before in the form 
of singing-school teachers so that you didn't feel too 
hopelessly a fish out of the water. Now, you can travel 
almost anywhere in the United States as a musician and be 
well received, but of course you are best received by the 
very large public if you are interested in popular music 
and connected with rock and roll, or country and western, 
or even perhaps blues. Jazz--there' s almost a nobility 
of jazz. So there's been a great change there. 

These emergency agencies of the Roosevelt administra- 
tion were spearpoints in a vanguard to sort of homogenize 
the American people, to have the country people know what 


the city people were doings and have the city people know 
what the country people were doing. In spite of the mis- 
takes, and perhaps even through the mistakes, there's been 
a tremendous shaking down of oppositions between city and 
country that viere on the danger end of jelling around I9OO. 
We were very close in I90O to fixing on the United States 
a European class system, with the kind of differences be- 
tween the upper classes and the lower classes that are very 
difficult to unfix once they're fixed. 

TUSLEE: Was the issue of Communism mixed up in any of the 

SEEGER: Not too much, no. There was not too much excite- 
ment before the post-World War II period. People went 
around and said they were Communists, they went to Com- 
munist lectures and plays, they read Communist books. The 
idea of Communism that was in the United States up to about 
19^0 or 19'4-2, at the beginning of the Second World War, was 
the idea that they got from the '20's in Russia, when Sid- 
ney and Beatrice VJebb wrote their book very favorable to 
the Russian experiment. United States intellectuals had 
gone over and found that there were many good things. The 
Russian musicians and writers were pretty free to experi- 
ment, very much as the American writers and musicians and 
painters were in the •20's. The idea of Communism that we 


had In the '30's was mostly based on reports of the '20' s. 
We had no idea of what was going on in the '30's. As I 
spoke before, when the purge trials of the '30's occurred 
we were very much disturbed, but the reports that were 
given by Stalin were in such a form that they could be be- 
lieved. Some people were beginning not to believe them. 
It was very hard for me to believe. 1 was very friendly 
to Russia on account of my hostility to the czarist govern- 
ment, and I was not inclined to believe ill even of Stalin 
up to 19'^3. I had a feeling that it was the kind of hos- 
tility to Russia that would have been friendly to Russia 
under the czars. When finally in 19-^3 I got a translation 
of the trials, I had the shock of my life. 

The Socialists and the Communists got along pretty 
well; they were beginning to go apart during the '30's 
because the issue of Hitlerism drove them apart. The 
Socialists were trying to live with Hitlerism, and the 
Communists were f ighting--and that meant fighting in the 
streets --and there was something rather romantic about the 
idea of fighting Hitlerism in the streets, especially for 
those of us who knew Eisler's music, which was infinitely 
better than Hitler's music. I think I spoke of my collec- 
tion of the music of those times, didn't I? and how I fi- 
nally put it in the Library of Congress under a ten years' 


prohibition that it should be opened, as "subversive mu- 
sic." The music of fascism was equally bad, and the music 
of the antifascist and the anti-Nazi movement was so much 
better that many of us musicians were friendly simply on 
that account. 

TUSLER: But the fact that the Resettlement Administration 
set up these various communities in a "somewhat communis- 
tic" fashion. . . 

SEEGER: Yes, it was attacked. It was attacked. I wouldn't 
be surprised if you v/ent over the Congressional Record 
that you'd find the word "Communism" used; certainly "so- 
cialistic" was. The cooperative movement in those days 
was even more vociferously attacked than the political 
movements were. Cooperative movements, which Tugwell 
brought into the picture and encouraged, were fought 
tooth and nail by many of the industrialists. The history 
of that very interesting period will be written some day. 



TUSLER: When we stopped the tape last v/eek, you were just 
beginning to speak of your association with the Pan-Ameri- 
can Union. 

SEEGER: Yes. The association with the Pan-American Union 
began with the membership in the organizing committee for 
the conference on Inter-American Relations in the Field of 
Music. It was called by the State Department in 1939. I 
should, perhaps, list some of the members of this commit- 
tee. There was a man from the National Broadcasting Com- 
pany, the international division; William Berrien I've 
spoken of--he was in the Department of Romance Languages 
in Northwestern University; Evans Clark was the executive 
director of the Twentieth Century Fund, New York, and had 
the largest collection of Latin-American phonograph records 
known to exist at the time; Eric Clarke, an Englishman, 
was with the Association of American Colleges; Nina Collier 
was the secretary of the committee, and had been in and 
out of Washington offices for a number of years, a woman 
of varied talents and independent character; Howard Hanson, 
of the Eastman School of Music; there was a man from the 
motion picture project of the American Council of Educa- 
tion; Mrs. James, the chief of the Division of Intellectual 


Cooperation in the Pan-American Unions Earl Moore of the 
Federal Music Project^ myself; Carleton Sprague Smith of 
the Music Division of the New York Public Library; Harold 
Spivacke, chief of the Music Division of the Library of 
Congress; and Davidson Taylor of the Columbia Broadcasting 
System, New York. As I mentioned earlier, this was the 
most efficient committee of the four set up by the State 
Department, and I think the only one that provided for its 
own continued existence after the 1939 conferences were 

I think I said on a former occasion that I had my own 
candidate for the job at the Pan-American Union, but even- 
tually they put me in it and thank heavens they did, be- 
cause it was one of the most interesting experiences in 
my life. It took several months to see the appointment 
through, and the arrangement was that the Carnegie Corpora- 
tion would give a $15,000 grant for three years. The first 
year was to be administered through Nelson Rockefeller's 
Office of Inter-American Affairs. From then on, it was in 
the hands of the Pan-American Union. 

The director-general of the old Pan-American Union was 
Leo S. Rowe, a Philadelphian who had risen to a fairly high 
post, I think in the Treasury, at one time. He was a gen- 
tleman of the old school, almost stone deaf, used a little 
silver ear trumpet, but v/as a remarkable lip reader, so that 


he might not pay axiy attention to the man sitting to his 
right around the large conference table but he could see 
what somebody said way down at the end of a long table. 
He had a beautiful office at the Pan-American Union, and 
had his chair built up six or eight inches so that he would 
not be dwarfed by it. 

I had many occasions to take people in to see him, 
from the United States and from other countries, and how- 
ever hostile they might have been when they went in, they 
never left without feeling that he was one of the real 
friends of their lives. He didn't spend much time with 
them, as a rule, unless he thought it was really worth- 
while, but he had a way of cutting an interview short that 
was really masterly. He would rise at the proper time to 
the split second and offer to show them the beautiful build- 
ing, and he would take them into the big salon with its 
gilded, slightly rococo, baroque architecture, and open 
the door if the weather was fair and show them the gardens, 
and we'd shake hands and the parrot would squawk in the 
coffee tree in the patio, and the visitor would depart 
With a smile on his face. 

We got along beautifully from the first moment and 
until his tragic death. I never took anything to him for 
a decision, except things that I expected him to say yes 


to. [laughter] 

TUSLER: What did you do with the things that you expected 
him to say no to? 

SEEGER: I either operated them on the sly or else I de- 
cided I'd drop them. Fortunately, there were so many things 
to do, it was a question of taking things to him that had 
to be taken to him that needed his approval. But he left 
me very free, and I could do almost anything I wanted. 

My relations with the other divisions were very cor- 
dial; everybody was helpful. I think they were a little 
envious of the beautiful room that we were operating from, 
with brocade furniture and a view out over the gardens, 
while some of them were working in little cubbyholes and 
in corridors, but they didn't show it and everything v^ent 
very well. The assistant director, William Manger, was 
an American and perhaps my staunchest friend, and helped 
out in more ways than I could even pretend to remember. 
Harold Spivacke, at the Library of Congress, was a strong 
ally. Out over the country, the notice that there was a 
Music Division of the Pan-American Union probably received 
no attention whatevero 

My first concern was to build an activity that v7ould 
have a base of operations larger than a small office of 
one room, v;ith a man and a couple of assistants and three 


or four secretaries. Looking out over the United States 
as I had become aware of it through my work in Resettle- 
ment and WPA, I realized that there was only one music 
organization that could do me any good whatever. The 
Music Teachers' National Association would meet once a 
year and pass a resolution of aid^ about v/hich nothing 
would be done until the next annual meeting. Sundry other 
organizations would be meaningless, and perhaps might even 
hang a lot of--we don't say lame ducks, here--useless 
millstones around the neck. The musicians' union could 
conceivably do a great deal of good, but under [James C] 
Petrillo I couldn't expect anything from them. We didn't 
have enough money to give big concerts by union musicians, 
and that was about the end of it. 

There was one organization, however, that seemed 
promising, and that was the Music Educators' National 
Conference. It was an organization started early 
in the century by the music supervisors in the public 
schools; it had developed a central office that I knew 
was very efficient, and it had a leadership that was way 
out in advance of its membership, which was at that time 
something like 25,000. They ran a slick-paper magazine 
full of advertisements in which there was a very narrow 
rivulet of text of no particular value. Inquiring around 


how I could get in touch with this organization, who would 
be the best person in it to get in touch with, someone 
fortunately told me that the associate director was a young 
woman who was a live wire, and she would be talking to a 
state or regional meeting, up in Wilmington, Delaware in 
a month. 

So I went up to hear Miss Vanett Lawler talk to the 
meeting, and afterwards I planned to meet her. I arrived 
in the middle of her talk and listened through a crack in 
the door, and could see that she was spellbinding them; 
as she fielded the questions, you realized she had them 
in the palm of her hand. So I made her acquaintance, and 
asked if I could borrow her for six weeks. The war was 
imminent: this was just before Pearl Harbor, and the 
conference realized that they were going to have hard 
sledding financially during the war, especially since we 
realized in the United States at that time that the odds 
were against us for the first couple of years. So I got 
her for six weeks, and began to set up the office February 
11, 1942. 

I had also a need for a person with excellent Spanish 
and was fortunate in meeting Gustavo Duran, who had just 
arrived in the United States and wanted a job. He was the 
son of a well-to-do merchant in Madrid, who had joined up 


with the Loyalist Army and become a brigadier general. 
From the defeat of the Loyalist Army, he found himself 
In Valencia with the Franco forces converging, and a hope- 
less situation. Fortunately, the Franco general in charge 
had been an old school friend of his, and he went to him 
and told him of his plight. The Franco general said, 
"Well, I can protect you for the next twenty-four hours, 
but after that I'll be helpless." The general got him 
onto a British man-of-war in the harbor; he just had the 
clothes on his back, and he landed in England with probab- 
ly the proper kind of letters of introduction. He became 
a teacher at a famous school, a progressive school, Dart- 
Ington Hall. About six weeks after that, he was engaged 
to a very lovely girl, and after their marriage, came to 
the United States. Gustavo was not only a speaker of 
beautiful Spanish and English, but a very good musician 
and a charming man; so I took him on. 

We needed beside a Spaniard, a Latin-American, and 
fortunately. Bill Berrien and Carleton Sprague Smith recom^ 
mended Luis Heltor Correa de Azevedo, a professor in the 
conservatory of music in Rio, who was a specialist in the 
folk music of Brazil. 

So we started off with this trio, and I think I can 
say now, thirty years later, that I couldn't have found 


three better people. In a small office, all in one room, 
with my three assistants and three secretaries, we went 
to work, full of enthusiasm. While I knew almost nothing 
about Latin America, and Gustavo not much more, Luis Heitor 
knew almost nothing about anything outside of Brazil; but 
Miss Lawler knew the United States a lot better than I did. 

The first thing that we set ourselves to do was to 
get it known in Latin America that we were there, and had 
some projects. The first project was to get the music of 
Latin- American composers published in the United States. 
I should preface the method of organization of this pro- 
ject with the facts that it faced. Latin-American music 
had been making a headway in the United States for a number 
of years, especially in the field of popular music. Latin- 
American popular music was published by a number of publi- 
shers, among them, probably the most successful. Southern 
Music Publishers. Edward B. Marks had done quite a bit; 
Schirmers had done some; and there were probably a dozen 
or so other publishers who'd picked up some money. The 
general feeling in Latin America was that the United States 
publishers made a lot of money out of their music, and that 
the composers didn't get much for it. So we had an inter- 
American situation to deal with that we could do something 
about . 


The project at the Pan-American Union was set up as 
a separate project, under the direction of Henry Cowell, 
who was taken on half time with a little office in New 
York. The first job that Henry had v;as to get to work on 
a uniform contract under which Latin-American composers 
could be contracted for publication of their work in the 
United States, with a feeling that they were getting just 
what a North American composer would get. So he started 
to work on that. 

The project v/as outlined by Miss Lawler. First we 
brought in a Latin- American composer who happened to be 
at hand, who was well-thought-of, and an American composer, 
and someone else, I've forgotten who --a first committee 
of three. They combed all the available Latin-American 
music, all that they could get their hands on. The Library 
of Congress had been receiving quite a bit, the Pan-Ameri- 
can Union had quite a lot, and there were pieces of music 
published in Latin America that could be published in the 
United States in the hands of some of our friends and pri- 
vate individuals. They got this music all together, selec- 
ted the things that they thought were musically good and 
suitable for publication in the United States, with the 
understanding that the principal purchasers of this music 
would be people connected with the public schools. 


So they laid the music out on tables, some of it in 
manuscript, some of it printed, some of it even out of 
print. Then a second committee, made up of seven or eight 
key people in the music education field (mind you, this 
was in the middle of war--we got money to pay their travel 
expenses to Washington and put them up per diem), looked 
over this music with the idea of its being published with 
a view to use in the public school system. These seven 
or eight men were at the same time music editors of the 
leading public school music textbooks for the leading music 
textbook publishers of the United States. 

Everybody was aware of the importance of the project. 
Germany and Italy had propagandized Latin America very 
heavily, with emphasis on music, pointing out that the 
real loyalty of Latin America should be to Germany and 
Italy as the greatest producers of music, and that the in- 
habitants of this northern hemisphere of the Americas were 
nothing but a bunch of barbarians; they had no orchestras, 
they had no opera houses, they had no music public --they 
were just barbarians. The Italians actually put out a 
specific book, calling attention to the beauties of Italian 
music, and how young musicians should go to Italy to study, 
and how Italian operas should be performed in Latin America. 
At the same time, it had been rumored, I don't know on how 


good authority^, that Germany was expected to base airplanes 
on airstrips in Colombia and Venezuela and bomb the Panama 
Canal. The idea of getting hold of the friendship of Latin 
America by all and any means possible, legitimate or ille- 
gitimate, was of course in everybody's mind. The capture 
of the Panama Canal, or its disablement, would have meant 
a great deal to the United States at that time. 

So the music project at the Pan-American Union to 
promote good-neighbor feelings between Latin America and 
the United States was right in line with the kind of work 
I'd done in ¥PA and Resettlement--in other words, it was 
trying to make friends between somewhat different groups 
of people by means of music. 

Well, it goes without saying that the seven or eight 
music educators who came to Washington to select from this 
initial gathering of possibly publishable Latin-American 
music would be friendly to the idea of having Latin- American 
music in their schools. They were mostly state supervisors 
or supervisors of music in the big cities, and they were 
men of good will, picked especially by Miss Lawler because 
they were not only important to the music education picture 
but because they were men who were, in the real sense of 
the word, patriotic. They did their job well. Then it 
was Henry Cowell's job to peddle the music that they chose 


to the publishers, whose advisers these music educators 
were. The project worked, of course, like greased light- 
ning; all of the big publishers and some of the smaller 
ones accepted works for orchestra, band, chorus, school- 
room, all kinds of things j and the publishers went right 
to it, sent out the standard contract which by that time 
had been arranged, and the project went like greased light- 
ning. Henry Cowell actually almost worked himself out of 
a job; in a couple of years--! think it was less than two 
years--he got two hundred pieces published. 

At the same time, one of our jobs was to get North 
American musicians and music performing groups down to 
Latin America. We had cooperation there from the outside, 
which we didn't even have to bother about. The Yale Glee 
Club was sent around Latin America independently of the 
Pan-American Union, and there was a dance group that went 
down, sponsored very largely (I think both of these were) 
by Nelson Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs. 
He had a committee there of advisers that I sat in on; 
Carleton Sprague Smith I think was chairman, and the con- 
ductor of the Yale Glee Club, Marshall Bartholomew, was on 
it. Then there was a third group who went down, a wind 
quintet whose players were all composers. 

Those three groups--the Yale Glee Club, the dance 


group, and the wind qulntet--had fantastic successes. 
Having more or less believed the propaganda of the Italians 
and the Germans, the Latin-American city people, who were 
the ruling groups of the countries of Latin-America, were 
absolutely dumfounded. They had no idea that young men 
whose fathers were prominent in business and industry and 
government sang in a glee club of such technical excel- 
lence. They had no idea that we had in the United States 
five composers who v;ere virtuosos on a wind instrument. 
There were misfortunes, of course, on the way--as for in- 
stance when the dance group got stranded in Buenos Aires 
and had to have thirty or forty thousand dollars sent to 
airplane it over the Andes to Santiago; the members of 
the wind quintet got into a fight among themselves in a 
Buenos Aires cafe--but on the whole it was a phenomenal 
success, those three ventures of Nelson Rockefeller's of- 
fice. We cooperated, of course, in every way that we 
could through introductions and so forth. 
TUSLER: How was Nelson Rockefeller's office related to 
the Pan-American Union? 

SEEGER: That was an emergency office in the Roosevelt 
administration, a war office. I was on Nelson Rockefeller's 
payroll for the first year. Its music committee voted 
Pan-American Union funds for operation of projects. I 


went around to find out in the middle of the first year 
how my budget stood. I had had no reports of the expen- 
diture of ray budget^ I knew perfectly well that the govern- 
ment wouldn't pay the prices that I said I thought such 
and such things could he bought at, but I wanted to be 
perfectly sure that I didn't overdraw because I knew that 
I'd be personally responsible. 

I went around along January or February and said to 
the accounting people there, "I haven't received any ac- 
counting. I'm getting worried; I'm getting toward the 
end of my budget, and I don't want to overdraw it." 

"Well, just wait a few weeks and we'll be able to 
tell you." 

Well, a few weeks went by, and another complaint from 
me, and finally it got quite late in the year and I was 
getting really worried. I think it got on to the end of 
April, and I said, "Look here, we can't let this go on any 
longer. I'm scared to death about the situation." 

The man happened to be human, and he leaned across 
the desk and he said, "Mr. Seeger, don't worry. Spend up 
to your budget as near as you think you can. We haven't 
the slightest idea, and we never will be able to give you 
an accounting." 

Well, I went back, and in the short time left to me 


(I think that must have been on toward June 1), I went 
well beyond my budget; I never heard from him. One of the 
things I bought was the most expensive loudspeaker radio- 
phonograph setup that I could--! think it had thirty-three 
tubes and was able to fill the gardens back of the Pan- 
American Union in spite of the traffic on Constitution 
Avenue and (what was it?) Independence and Virginia ave- 
nueSj which is quite heavy, with marvelous sounds, so 
that you could dance to it or entertain a meeting with 

Meanwhile, Miss Lawler and I got busy with trying to 
reach people, peoples of countries, not just ruling classes. 
The glee club, the dance group, and wind quintet went just 
to the music lovers of the capitals of Latin America. The 
less well paid people, the nonmusical people in those capi- 
tals didn't pay any attention to it at all. Of course, 
these groups, in getting in touch with the music elite in 
these capitals, got pretty close to the ruling elite, be- 
cause they're all the same thing. That doesn't mean to 
say that the military dictators in charge of most of the 
Latin-American countries are music lovers, but their wives 
usually made music-loving a part of the maintenance of 
their social status; whether they really liked the music 
or not didn't make any difference — they patronized it, and 


they said, "Music is fine." 

So these three groups did a great deal of good for 
inter-American relations simply because it was so close 
to the ruling class; but Miss Lawler and I wanted to dig 
deeper. We wanted to get into the city populations and, 
to what extent we could, even enter rural populations. We 
approached this in a double way. First, and easiest, was 
through the United States. We worked up a program for a 
meeting of the Music Educators' National Conference in 
Milwaukee, I think it was the fall of 1942, in which there 
would be programs pushing the arms of our program, the 
different divisions of our forces, you might say. It was 
a military operation, and we had various divisions. 

One division was musicology. Music educators through- 
out the country were hostile to musicology. We thought 
that one of the ways we could get an interest in Latin- 
American music was through the music that could only be 
approached through musicology--its primitive folk, popu- 
lar, and of course composed music. We could do that all 
up in a bundle, as comparative musicology or musicology, 
as anyone would want it, and we could present it to the 
more academically oriented of the music eduators, so that 
even in a primary school they could talk about the music 
of the Indians in the Amazon, or something, being like the 


music of the Indians in the United States and that sort 
of thing, and they could begin to make these cross-cul- 
tural relations between Latin America and the United States 
that ethnomusicologists and musicologists were beginning 
to try to open up. Of course, the schoolteachers would 
make it on a basis of utter ignorance and mere enthusiasm, 
and some marvelous distortions of the truth would result; 
but at least it was getting things started, and if first 
an untruth was taught, a truth could replace it later, 
hopefully. So musicology was one thing. 

The next prong of our offensive was in folk music. 
I was pretty much convinced from my work with Resettlement 
that you could, without too much idealism, expect the mu- 
sic educators to become interested in American folk music 
(by American folk music, I mean British-American folk 
music, folk music in the English language) as their next 
logical step. Back around I9OO, there was practically no 
American material in the school books, except imitations 
of imitations written by schoolteachers. Stephen Foster's 
songs and some of the older popular songs were put into 
these school books in the first decades of the twentieth 
century as a result of an increasing interest in the his- 
tory of the United States on the part of some of the lead- 
ing music educators, especially Will Earhart. It seemed 


to me that now that the older popular music had gotten in- 
to the schools, the next thing was to put the folk music 

The third prong of Miss Lawler's and my offensive 
was to get Latin-American music into the schools, and a 
program was organized toward that end. The fourth prong 
was to get the younger American composers connected up with 
the public school music programs, people like Aaron Copland, 
Virgil Thomson, Henry Cowell, Roy Harris, and others. 

So at this meeting in Milwaukee, we arranged to have 
section meetings devoted to these separate programs. The 
lot were drawn together in a big meeting at which v;e had 
a two-way radio contact with Rio de Janeiro, and we spoke 
to Heitor Villa-Lobos, the leading Brazilian composer. 
He spoke back, and Luis Heitor translated the Portuguese 
into English. We had on the platform, Aaron Copland, Henry 
Cowell, Virgil Thomson and others; it was a very success- 
ful meeting, and three of our objectives were gained. The 
folk music putsch stuck, the Latin-American music stuck, 
and the contemporary composers stuck. The musicology fell 
down; they couldn't take it. The music educators were so 
much convinced that musicologists were snobs, and they 
weren't interested in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
tury, that we didn't make any headway there, but we made 


astonishing headway on all these other three objectives, 
and the momentum has been carried right on down to the 
present day. So we felt that from the point of view of 
the United States^ we had attained our objective as early 
as 1942 or '43. 

The problem was getting hold of the counterpart of 
this popular audience in Latin America. That was going to 
be much more difficult. The strategy there was to send 
Miss Lawler to South America. We got a project up, pay- 
ing her way around Latin America in I think two install- 
ments. She was to visit every country, and she set forth; 
I've forgotten what the date was, 1943 or '44. Mind you, 
the war was going on. Peron was in the saddle in Argen- 
tina, Batista in Cuba, and a lot of other gangsters in the 
other countries, v/ell beribboned as benevolent dictators 
but representing the very small units of banking and land 
owning that had controlled the countries for generations 
and have continued to control them ever since. The pros- 
pects of reaching the people in a way that would be a coun- 
terpart to the way we were reaching the people in the 
United States were, of course, pretty dim. It led through 
the antechambers of ministers of education, deans of 
schools, rectors of universities, and a very few musicians 
who had shown some human interest in education, folklore. 


musicology, and God knows what. It was Miss Lawler's job 
to work the thing from the top down, not on the technical 
level as we'd been able to do it in the United States, but 
from the executive and diplomatic level down, and partly 
from the professional music level dovm. 

Well, I won't go into the details of her trip or its 
fantastic success. I can only give a few stories which 
would more or less give an idea of how she went to workj 
of course she had letters of introduction, the best we 
could get for her, of all kinds, to all kinds of people. 
I think perhaps the first story I could tell would be in 
Buenos Aires, where Peron was in the saddle. 

She arrived in Buenos Aires and everybody was very 
polite, but they brushed her off. The Americans did nothing 
for hero Our letters of introduction were inadequate ex- 
cept to the British embassy, and the British embassy said, 
"Why, of course, we have a special music office in connec- 
tion with our embassy." I think she had a letter to the 
man, so she went around to him and he did everything for 
her. What he did was to take her around and introduce her, 
or give her a letter of introduction, to the Minister of 

So one day she sailed in (she hadn't been in town more 
than a few days — she works very rapidly) to the antechamber 


of the Minister of Education. She met the First Secretary 
of the American embassy sitting there. After she'd given 
her name, they exchanged a few words j he'd been sitting 
there for two hours trying to see the Minister of Educa- 
tion. The word came, "Oh, Miss Lawler, come right in." 
She went in, had an hour session with the minister, but- 
tered him up in her special way so that he was ready 
to do anything she wanted. 

On her way out, she was approached by the secretary 
and he walked down the corridor, and he said, "You've been 
here — what is It, three or four days? and you walk right in 
to the Minister of Education. How did you do it?" 

"Well," said Miss Lawler in her best mollifying ac- 
cents, "I'm representing the Pan-American Union. You're 
just another country." 

He said, "You travel on an American passport?" 

"Yes," she said, "unfortunately the Pan-American Union 
hasn't the privilege of issuing passports." 

Next day, he called with a couple of others at her 
hotel and said, "We are escorting you to the steamer to 

Meanwhile, I had a telegram: "I'm being put out of 
Argentina. Is there anything you can do?" 

So I went up to Dr. Rowe, showed him the telegram. 


and he wheeled around in his chair in a kind of a whimsi- 
cal way he had and looked out the window. He said, "Un- 
fortunately, we don't have passports. If she were travel- 
ing on a Pan-American passport, she'd stay." [laughter] 
She went. 

TUSLER: Was this a purely vitriolic act on this person's 

SEEGER: They were ready to think she was working against 
the United States. Meanwhile, my old friend Gustavo Duran 
was the man Friday, or what was it--Hopkins, to Ambassa- 
dor [Spruille] Braden from the United States; and the 
United States couldn't put up with this. They suspected 

Well, after a while she found herself in Chile. The 
American embassy heard that this charming American woman 
representing the Pan-American Union was there and they 
waited, in their typical manner, for her to come around 
and call. 

After three weeks, no call; and the ambassador finally 
met her at a party, and said, "Miss Lawler, I've been sur- 
prised you haven't called at the embassy." 
"Oh," she said, "I've been too busy." 
"But," he said, "you're an American, aren't you?" 
"Yes, but I represent the Pan-American Union, and I'm 


not representing any member of the Pan-American Union. 
I'm representing the Pan-American Union in Chile." 

Wellj it was pretty hard for him to take, but he 
did. I've forgotten just hov; the denouement did take 
place; but when she went to take her place on the plane 
leaving Santiago, the chief of the armed services or the 
head of the navy, or something, of Chile was going to be 
on the same plane, and he had four handsome young men there 
as his adjutants to say good-bye to him. "Oh!" when he 
saw Miss Lawler--she' d met him some place and they were 
great friends; she made friends with everybody--he turned 
to the young men and said, "Salute! " so they all saluted 
her. [laughter] The result was that she had a very pleas- 
ant trip to Lima, or wherever it was, sitting next to the 
admiral. And that's the way she ran things. 

Naturally, when we wanted something done in one of 
those countries to help music, we had ways of getting 
things done. What little we did was to get organizations 
started. It's a long story getting things organized down 
there; they haven't much of an idea of how to organize. 
Their idea of organization is for a few friends to get 
together and keep everybody else out and just have some 
fun by themselves. The contacts were pretty close, es- 
pecially since the people who were in charge of music 


education in most of the Latin-American countries v/ere 
also their leading composers, and since we were getting 
compositions of the leading composers published in the 
United States, they returned the favor by helping us with 
the music education situation. Our idea was that we'd 
get Chilean songs into Mexico and Guatemalan songs into 
Uruguay and United States songs into those countries and 
some of their music into our school books, so that there 
would be building up an American solidarity v/hich would be 
useful in the war and culturally real after the war was 
over; because whether you know it or not and whether you 
admit it or not, the culture of the Americas has this 
very strong bond in it; that its dominating force is co- 
lonialism. We were completely colonial up to the time 
of our secession from the mother countries, the colonizing 
countries. Then we were politically free, but the British 
empire kept the seas in a state where the United States 
wasn't much bothered by other countries. Economically, 
all of the Americas were dependent to a very large extent 
upon Europe, up to the First World War, and most of them 
up to the second. The United States became economically 
free, really, at the First World War. The British owned 
all the railroads of the Latin- American countries. They 
owned many of our railroads. 


Economically we got free about with the First World 
War, and I think culturally we became free in the period 
between the wars; but most of the Latin-American countries 
were still pretty much bound to Europe culturally and 
still are. Mexico broke away in its revolution in I9IO. 
Brazil broke away, culturally, betv;een the v;ars. In fact, 
they were even ahead of us in some ways; Brazilians were 
putting Brazilian v/ords in place of the Italian words of 
allegro, presto, andante, and so forth, before we v;ere 
putting English. They were naming their music after Bra- 
zilian subjects and folklore, national events, before we 
were--that is, their best composers were doing it, not 
just some freaks who, just to help their 3omev;hat falter- 
ing music professional advance, would say, "Oh, American 
music must be based on Indian music," or something like that. 
There is_, since the Second World War, a growing feeling of 
a cultural bond between South America, Central America, 
the Antilles and North America that has reality. Of course, 
it was realized by students pretty far back, but it has 
been increasingly realized, so that now there are Latin- 
American programs in many American universities; the Univer- 
sity of California has its project of cooperation with the 
University of Chile. 

In all of this, we had at the Pan-American Union an 


influence. I became an honorary member of the faculty of 
the University of Chile sometime way back in the '40' s, 
and more Americans have become members of the faculty j it's 
an honorary position. I even received a decoration as 
commander in the order Al Merito. This sort of thing, 
first started by the Pan-American Union, has kept going. 
We thought we were doing pretty well for the University 
of Chile when we sent them $5,000 worth of office machines, 
recording devices, and that sort of thing. The University 
of California just sent them $35,000 for recording equip- 
ment, and so you see things are advancing. Many of the 
friends that I formed in those years at the Pan-American 
Union I've kept; unfortunately, a great many of them have 
died, but the projects we started were started on a firm 
basis, and it has kept going ever since. 

The music education project first began to flower with 
an invitation that came to Miss Lawler to go down to Chile 
and spend I think six months working with the music educa- 
tors. This was a private affair, of course stimulated by 
the Pan-American Union; but it was a private arrangement 
with her. 

I forgot to say that after our first borrowing of Miss 
Lawler for six weeks, I borrowed her for six months and 
then for six years. By that time, the whole universe of 


the Music Educators in the United States was a different 
thing. Her work at the Pan-American Union was very in- 
teresting. She asked me, "Well_, now, how should we plan 
this?" I'm borrowing her from the Music Educators: they 
would pay her half her salary and the Pan-American Union 
would pay her half her salary; she would spend half her 
time working for the Music Educators and half the time 
for the Pan-American Union. But we looked at each other 
laughing because it occurred to us both at the same time 
that you couldn't distinguish the tv;o. Everything that 
she did for the Music Educators was also for the Pan-Ameri- 
can, and everything she did for Pan-American was for the 
Music Educators. The two things were so much one bundle. 

So she went down there, and as a result of the work 
with the Chilean music educators, an Inter- American Insti- 
tute of Music Education was set up, and that has gone on, 
and I expect a third meeting will take place next year. 

The way the work shaped up was really polyphonic : 
the projects sometimes seemed to have no connection with 
each other. Of course, building a music library at the 
Pan-American Union was something. I was music editor of 
the Handbook of Latin-American Studies for six years, I 
think, or was it longer than that? eight years, and that 
enabled me to keep in touch with the bibliographical end 


of things. We began to build a small phonogram archive 
at the Pan-American Union, and we were in touch with folk- 
lore collection all through the Americas off and on; we 
sent machines down for recording by responsible people 
and sent discs down, also to be copied, and I regret to 
say that the machines never came back, and in only one case 
did the discs ever come back filled with anything worth- 
while. There was a lively exchange of materials. They 
were very friendly and sent us more, probably, than we 
were able to send them. 

But this whole picture changed with the setup of 
UNESCO. Now this tape is nearing an end, and I'd better 
start off on a new tape v;ith the change which came into 
the picture at the Pan-American Union when, in the same 
year the United Nations was set up, the Organization of 
American States was also set up as a regional organization, 
and in that way my work at the Pan-American Union became 
putatively, at least, a regional music operation under 
UNESCO. My idea was, taught by my experience in the Roose- 
velt administration, that I would form an inter-American 
music council and then hope that there would be a European 
music council, an African music council, an East Asian 
music council, and so forth, and that they would eventually 
come together in a federation of world regions and we would 


have a world music council. But with the formation of 
UNESCO, they jumped the gun, and a music office was set 
up in Paris. I think I should begin with my activity in 
that connection with the next tape. 

TUSLER: To what extent do you feel North American musical 
influences were brought into South America as a result of 
the Pan-American Union? 

SEEGER: Well, they were brought in to a tremendous extent; 
they began to play our music, and we sent down more and 
more organizations playing our music. Finally whole phil- 
harmonic orchestras went down, and they played North Ameri- 
can compositions as well as South American compositions, so 
that I think now you can say that the knowledge of North 
America in South America, and of South America in North 
America, musically, is very close. There's great admira- 
tion down there for our best composers, and from the recep- 
tion of some of the Latin-American composers' music in our 
big cities here, it certainly is reciprocal. I heard a 
concert in Washington, one of the great string quartets 
playing at the Library of Congress, at which Beethoven 
and some other European composer's work was performed, and 
the quartet of [Alberto] Ginastera of Argentina got a stand- 
ing ovation. It was a magnificent work. Ginastera' s operas 
have been played at the new opera center in New York. I 


think he's had almost more commissions from the United 
States than he's had from Argentina; in fact, there's 
some jealousy in Buenos Aires that he's gotten so much 
backing from the United States that he's really not a 
real Argentine. That sort of thing goes on. 



SEEGER: Before starting off with the subject of the pre- 
sent tape, I ought to tell the story illustrating the man- 
ner in which a clever woman can operate in Washington. The 
setting is a meeting during the later days of the war of 
the eighteen music men in as many different Washington 
offices who v/ere trying to make music serve the war effort 
in some way or other. I say eighteen music men — one of 
them was a woman, Vanett Lawler. By this time, everybody 'd 
been operating for a couple of years, but they thought that 
they might exchange reminiscences, plans, and so forth and 
so on; I suppose there was some intention of working toward 

At any rate, there were eighteen of us seated in chairs 
around the v;alls of a rather smallish room with no table in 
the center, something like a French provincial salon. Don't 
ask me how it happened that the man at Miss Lawler 's right 
started off; there was no chairman, there was no agenda, 
there was no plan. It was an informal gathering, and it 
might very well have been the fate of the lone woman to be 
more or less in the middle of the circle, or perhaps even 
at the beginning out of a survival of chivalry. But a 
clever woman doesn't allow herself to be in those very 


unstrategic positions. So the man to the right of Miss 
Lawler started off and he did his little spiel, of course 
building up a nice story of what he'd done and hov; clever 
he v/as and so forth. As those present spoke one after 
another, about half of them wound up saying, "Well, I don't 
know too much about this development, but Miss Lawler can 
tell you more about it." 

By the time Miss Lawler had to speak--the last one, 
of course, of the eighteen — she didn't have to say anything 
about v;hat she had been doing. All she had to do was to 
say a nice word about those of the members (as I say, about 
half of them) who'd mentioned her, and to thank them for 
their mention, and perhaps expand a little bit, not too 
much, so as not to show that she knew more than they did 
on what they'd said, spreading a few nice words about every- 
body else in the room--and that was the end of it. She 
didn't have to say anything about what she was doing. Each 
one there knew that she knew more about what was happening 
in Washington than they did, and an ordinary career woman 
might have spread herself to show how she really did know 
more than all the rest of them and that they all, so to 
speak, played into her hands; but not Miss Lawler. She let 
it go at that, and of course everybody loved her at the 
end and kept on bringing her their troubles and going to 


her for advice. It's worthwhile recording a story of that 
sort once in a while, because there are women in Washing- 
ton who make every man who works with them or under them 
hate them. 

We're now coming to the matter of the relations of 
the Pan-American Union and the United Nations and UNESCO. 
The United Nations formed in 1945. [UNESCO was established 
in November, 1946.] UNESCO is a specialized agency of the 
United Nations and, of course, there was the question of 
how, into this new world order, the established agencies 
of the new world would fit. The Pan-American Union had 
gotten busy, as soon as it heard about the impending or- 
gani2:ation of the United Nations, with an Organization of 
American States which would be a regional organization un- 
der the world organization of the United Nations. But 
since the Pan-American Union had well-developed, so to 
speak, "cultural" offices, it also had a special relation- 
ship with Ul^ESCO, which was the "cultural" arm of the United 
Nations. (How I dislike that word "cultural" in that use.) 
In fact, UNESCO _is the United Nations' educational, scienti- 
fic, and cultural arm. 

UNESCO went off in the way of a kind of an explosion 
under the guidance of Julian Huxley in Paris, and concocted 
a music program that was enough to alarm almost anyone. 


I don't have the program at hand, and I believe it's 
thoroughly forgotten; but among the items, just to in- 
dicate just how crazy they were, there was an expensive 
project to send groups of lecturers, dancers, musicians, 
poets, and theater people around the world to educate 
the masses of the world in ancient Greek music and dance, 
If there's any subject musicologists and historians will 
quarrel about, it's Greek music and dance. If you want 
to make dissension, one of the best ways is to bring up 
the subject; otherwise, you just let it lie, or "leave 
it lay," as they say in the United States. So I dis- 
patched a memorandum to Julian Huxley, tearing the pro- 
gram to pieces. I received a letter of thanks which 
brushed me off beautifully, and that was the end of the 
matter. I had had no expectation that they would pay 
any attention to it. 

But I got a program drawn up, what they ought to 
do, and I still have that. The question was how to pre- 
sent it. It so happened that Julian Huxley came to the 
United States on one of his early official tours, and I 
heard that he was having dinner one night at the brother- 
in-law of Gustavo Duran, who had worked for me in my 
first year at the Pan-American Union. 

So I called Gustavo on the telephone and told him 


about what had happened, and he said, "V7ell, come right 
up. I can take you over, and you'll join us; they'd love 
to have you." 

I said, "Not a bit of it. I'm not horning in on 
this dinner party. I'll bring you up my draft of the 
program, and you can present it for what it's worth." 

He said, "Sure, I will." 

So he waited for me in his office on Lake Success 
until I could get up there by plane and taxis, and I 
gave him the outline and came back to V/ashington. 

He presented it, and Julian Huxley liked it very 
much, and said, "Well, now, how will we get this thing 
started? Would you come over?" (Oh, I had said to him, 
"Don't present it as my idea, present it as your idea.") 

I don't know what he did; but at any rate, Huxley 
asked Gustavo if he would come over and get this thing 
started. He said, "I like this program." 

Gustavo said, "Well, I'm working for the United 
Nations now in the secretariat." (I think it was the 
Division of Economic and Social Affairs.) "Maybe you 
could borrow me." 

So, no sooner said than done. He was borrowed and 
he went over v;ith one promise to me, that when he left 
he would get Miss Lawler in for six months. His promise 


was duly fulfilled, and Miss Lawler went over to Paris 
and headed up the section on, as far as I remember, mostly 
the artsj she more or less filled the whole cultural pro- 
gram for a while, very competent, and Huxley relied on 
her extensively. 

The correspondence (I wish I still had it) with Miss 
Lawler during this period was hot. It turned out that 
Huxley was inflexible; the one thing he wanted all his 
subordinates to do was to prepare very elaborate question- 
naires that would go out all over the world. On the ba- 
sis of these questionnaires, they would work out programs. 
Miss Lawler didn't like questionnaires because she knew 
perfectly well they don't amount to a row of pins, at 
least in the music educational end of things. But Huxley 
insisted, and among the many services that she performed, 
she drew up a questionnaire to end all questionnaires in 
music education. As I remember, it was thirteen single- 
space pages long, and the only people who could have an- 
swered it would have been a commission working about a 
year in the United States, which would in turn have to 
send out another perhaps more elaborate questionnaire, with 
a whole corps of people to see that it got answered. Well, 
some day she must write it up; she must report on her six 
months' service in Paris. 


As I saw what was happening, I realized that Huxley's 
whole music program would be defeated at any meeting of 
internationally minded people, intellectuals who had some 
idea of the proportions of things. In a real agony of 
reappraisal, I sent a telegram to Helen White, who was 
(I think) a professor in the University of Wisconsin and 
was one of the delegates of the United States: "Would you 
be willing to present the follov:ing resolution at the 
Mexico meeting of UITESCO." (Its annual meeting was in 
Mexico.) "The secretary-general is directed to inquire 
into the feasibility of forming an international institute 
of music." No money, nothing but an inquiry. I was pretty 
sure it would go through. 

Well, in comes Huxley and his cohorts to Washington 
on their v/ay to Mexico. At a tea (I've forgotten where 
it was now--one of the hotels --I think it was that one 
out on Connecticut Avenue) we listened to his plans for 
UNESCO, and among other things was his decision to have 
the Americas represented in two groups, a Latin-American 
group and an Anglo-American group. We sat around and said, 
"Oh, yeah?" the Pan-American Union having been founded and 
being continued and particularly interested in having the 
Americas represented as one , not as two; but English poli- 
tics had for many years tried to drive a wedge between 


the Americas while the United States was trying to tie 
them together, and as an Englishman he was putting over 
the English policy. 

Well, it was quite obvious that Miss Lawler's whole 
program would be defeated. I neglected to say that her 
promise to me was that when her six months were finished, 
she would try to get in Luiz Heitor Correa de Azevedo, who 
had been my third man in my first year at the Pan-Ameri- 
can Union, as permanent man in UNESCO to implement the 
music program which Huxley hoped would result from the 
questionnaires, and I hoped would result from my simple 
little resolution that I hoped Miss White would present. 
I go into these details because it shows one of the ways 
of operating in Washington. If you can't get what you 
want through channels, you "go around," like the Boyg in 
Peer Gynt . 

Well, the cohorts went off to Mexico, and as I expec- 
ted, Huxley ' s music program was ignominiously defeated and 
Helen White's little resolution was un9.nimously accepted. 
Luis Heitor was duly established in Paris, and then came 
the chance for me to enter. 

A meeting was called in Paris in 19^8 or '49^ I've 
forgotten which, to draw up the plans for the International 
Music Council. I went over and discovered that the basic 


documents for the institute were, unfortunately, already- 
drawn up by the legal officers of UlTESCO, and they were 
drawn up in the European fashion, which would guarantee 
the setting up of a bureau of control that would not be 
seriously disturbed by voting. In other words, the nomi- 
nating committee was formed of the officers and the repre- 
sentatives of four professional organizations: the In- 
ternational Musicological Society; the International Folk 
Music Council; the Jeunesse Musicale, which was a Belgian, 
supposedly nonprofit, international organization for giv- 
ing concerts for young people, but I wouldn't say how non- 
profit it was; and the other group I can't remember. At 
any rate, the French idea of an international organization 
was that it would have its seat in Paris, that its bureau 
would renominate itself and would not nominate any double 
slate or any such democratic processes as that, and would 
be sure to be an example of what the Latin- Americans call 
contlnuismo . Well, I fought it as hard as I could, but 
I was voted down. 

The general atmosphere was very friendly, but I was 
unable to do the sort of thing that I had tried to do in 
the little project of the Inter- American Music Council 
which had been going through the committees of the Organi- 
zation of American States, and so I just had to go along 


with the group. The headquarters were in the old Hotel 
Majestic; it was very crowded. The work was pretty hec- 
tic; everybody had much more to do than they could pos- 
sibly do; but Luis Heitor was the ideal man for the job. 
His English had improved enormously and he set himself 
to cultivation of French, which by the time I reached 
Paris was on the way to being remarkably good. 

I was a member of the organizing committee because 
I'd been sponsor of the resolution and they regarded me 
as the father of the International Music Council; they 
were awfully nice that way. The constitution was so ar- 
ranged that, beside the representatives of organizations 
and the representatives of countries that had national 
music organizations, there were I think four persons 
elected to be members in their individual capacity, and 
at the first meeting, I think it was in 19^9^ I was of 
course duly elected an individual member. The United 
States didn't have a national committee. They came to 
me to advise upon who to get in touch with in the various 
Latin-American republics who might form national commit- 
tees, and of course I was in a very good position there 
to know who were the musicians in the various countries 
who might form national committees, and in those countries 
that had a fairly strong music life like Cuba, Mexico, 


Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and 
Brazil, I got good men„ For some of the smaller countries, 
there was more doubt whether it was worth electing them 
as national organizing members. I was afraid I might get 
into political troubles in some of the smaller countries, 
especially of Central America. I've forgotten what the 
final outcome was, but in the course of time there was a 
national commission in Mexico, in Chile, Venezuela, I think 
Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, so that some of 
the leading musicians of those countries got over to Paris 
with their fare paid. 

I attended meetings for four years, from 19^9 to 1952, 
and became personally acquainted for the first time with 
many leaders of European musical life, some of whom I had 
been in correspondence with. There were several meetings 
in 1952, one of the International Musicological Society, 
which comes every three years, and one of the International 
Folk Music Council. I attended both of them. I read papers 
at both. As I remember, in I949 I was not present at any 
meetings; it was a winter meeting and there were no learned 
societies meeting at that time. 

The situation was a very peculiar one. There v;ere 
some very strong personalities in the early days of the 
International Music Council. The secretary of the Jeunesse 


Musicale, Marcel Cuvelier of Belgium, was a very smart 
negotiator. The elected president was Roland Manuel, a 
Spaniard, part French, who had fled Spain with the defeat 
of the Loyalist armies, one of the most popular lecturers 
over the national radio of France, a composer, and one of 
the most lovable men in the world. Musicology was repre- 
sented hy [Knud] Jeppesen of Denmark, who had kept the 
International Society going over the years in the true 
European style of the benevolent dictatorship, and kept 
it very conservative, very small, and very inactive. 
There were a couple of budding organizations, in unions 
and band associations and that sort of thing, that were 
not represented by very strong people. I remember espe- 
cially [Fausto] Torrefranca, the Italian musicologist, 
and Samuel Baud-Bovie, the Swiss ethnomusicologist, always 
were present to represent something or other. I think 
Torrefranca was an individual member. 

There was very strong feeling that Spain should not 
be invited to join UNESCO, on account of its general atti- 
tude toward science, education, and culture, and on ac- 
count of the dictatorship there. The meetings were pretty 
much planned ahead; you knew what was going to happen. 
Luis Heitor was a very astute politician who did not pre- 
tend to dominate. He interpreted his function as simply 


being the secretary of the technical contact with UNESCO 
that would see that the power structure that was being 
built by IMC functioned harmoniously with UI^SCO. Cuvelier 
was secretary, and handled it like a tyrant. I could, 
if my French had been better, have had a knock-down, drag- 
out battle with him. His English was rather poor and my 
French was very poor, and we both of us decided that v/e 
would not dispute issues. 

The result was that the International Music Council, 
like most international organizations that are domiciled 
in France, became almost more French than the French, 
thoroughly under the influence of French ideas of cul- 
ture, French ideas of music, and French ideas of every- 
thing else. It was a case of the naive provincial, in 
the shape of myself, being simply unable to buck the in- 
tegrated cohorts of the European capital. I could see by 
the second year, I think it was 1950 or '51, the general 
directions. The rest of the world would be told by this 
French-dominated clique what was music and what they 
ought to do in the way of music, and when meetings were 
called, the proper authorities would be called upon to 
read papers and tell the rest of the world how they ought 
to behave, and that the contacts of UNESCO, far from try- 
ing to reach the peoples of the world, would content 


themselves with reaching the ruling classes and the elite 
of the professional music groups. 

I became increasingly disenchanted with the situation. 
When the nomination of the secretary from England came up, 
I said, "Well, that's better than having this continental/' 
so I backed it, and frankly, I made the mistake of my life 
in letting a radiobroadcasting man get in as secretary, 
and he's still there. He's a charming fellow, but the 
International Music Council has been disc- jockeyed ever 
since (I think It was 195 1) . 

I don't want to deal with this too much in detail, 
but some very amusing things happened. I could sense the 
partial dissolution of my carefully built up bond of friend- 
ship between Latin America and the United States. For 
there still remained in Latin America and to a certain ex- 
tent in the United States, too, the feeling that they 
wanted European--more than each other' s--recognition. 
Performance in the United States of their works very much 
pleased the Latin-American composers, but performance in 
Europe meant much more to them, and frankly, performance 
in Europe meant more to a North American composer than 
performance in Latin America. So I had to see my carefully 
built house of cards of the Latin-American musicians and 
North-American musicians in a way falling apart--not 


entirely, but to all intents and purposes. They were 
still friendly with the United States because the United 
States was giving them money, publishing their works, 
performing them, and so forth and so on; but they wanted 
European recognition. Cultural colonialism still lived. 
American composers had stopped studying in Europe in the 
'20' s, but Latin-American composers, young men, were still 
going to Europe in the '50' s. 

The whole matter came to a climax in 1952, when the 
nominating committee walked in with the renomination of • 
the officers then in office. I protested that this was 
the way to either ossify the International Music Council 
or to destroy it; that naturally the secretary would have 
to be a permanent office, perhaps even the treasurer, 
but the governing committee should have one or two fresh 
members in every year; the permanent professional organi- 
zations like the International Music Council, International 
Folk Music Council, and so forth and so on, should rotate 
their representatives; and when it came to the president, 
the president should not succeed himself. 

Well, there was Roland Manuel sitting up in the 
chair, he was nominated to succeed himself, and I was 
telling him that he shouldn't run for president again; 
and there was the nominating committee, aghast at my 


impudence. So they asked me to propose some nominations, 
of course knowing perfectly well that I'd be voted down; 
and knowing perfectly well that I'd be voted down, I 
nominated them. I nominated anybody I could think of, 
just off the cuff. [laughter] The British representative. 
Sir Somebody Wilson, who was an ex-singer who somehow or 
other had got knighted, I nominated for chairman and he 
promptly refused. My colleague from the United States, 
Samuel Barber, whom I nominated for vice-chairman, also 
renlgged, [laughter] and did the same thing when I nomina- 
ted him for chairman, and the whole thing fell apart. The 
nominating committee's slate was unanimously elected be- 
fore I'd given my dissenting vote! [laughter] 

Then came the rest of the nominations- -I think it 
was the individual members next. I think they were tak- 
ing them alphabetically, and I came of course toward the 
end. When my name was proposed, and of course I would 
have been elected, I withdrew my name. Consternation. 

Torrefranca jumps up and says, "But he's father of 
the council; we can't be without his presence. I nominate 
him for honorary president." [laughter] Everybody was 
rather aghast, because there was no post of honorary presi- 
dent, [laughter] 

So I very gracefully managed to say, "I thank Mr. 


Torrefranca for his nomination, but since there is no 
post for such a thing in the constitution, I suppose 
the only thing for me to do, having suggested that the 
president not run for re-election, is that I myself 
should not run for re-election." So the matter was 
over and done. 

Well, of course, in typical European fashion they 
felt that this had to be smoothed over; so there was a 
large dinner party at one of the UNESCO officer's homes. 
Jean Thomas, Roland Manuel and I were formally taken 
up before the crowd and were supposed to shake hands, 
did shake hands, and v/e had no bad feelings at all. 
Everything all went off very nicely. 
TUSLER: Did he succeed himself? 

SEEGER: Oh, yes, yes. He did succeed himself. But 
shortly afterwards, Spain was elected a member of UNESCO, 
and he promptly resigned. Since that time, I think they've 
taken my little reproach to heart, and they elected a 
different nationality for each term. 

TUSLER: But you were really a one-man opposition at that 

SEEGER: I was a one-man opposition. In fact, I was ab- 
solutely a bull in a china shop. I objected to so many 
things in that 1952 meeting, it was almost expected. 


[laughter] I got a little note from one man, I've for- 
gotten his nationality, saying something to the effect 
that you seem to be the only man here who says what you 
think. [laughter] 

Well, at any rate, the council was pretty firmly 
established of the more permanent professional organiza- 
tions, and they got more money and they branched out, 
but the general program was a disc-Jockey program. It 
was: "We know who the great composers are, and we know 
that all the people in the world should hear their music, 
and one of the ways of hearing their music is to have 
symphony orchestras and string quartets and opera com- 
panies play their music; and we want, of course, a good 
stock of capable composers in the coming generation, so 
we must encourage young composers." So they went at that 
tooth and nail, and did everything they could to get more 
contemporary music performed and more young composers a 
chance to hear their works--a chance to get enough money 
to live on and compose and have their works performed and 
so forth and so on; and that was that. I was not interested 
in that sort of thing. 

TUSLER: Was that its primary activity, then? 
SEEGER: That was its primary activity. I was bored to 
death; I told them they were on the wrong track, that 


they should get out and do more with popular, folk, and 
even primitive music, and should try to organize among the 
masses of the people and not spend all their time just 
with professionals; but they didn't pay any attention to 

Meanwhile, at one of the meetings, I've forgotten 
which one it was, I had proposed a resolution that an 
international society for music education would be set 
up under the auspices of UNESCO, and would in due time 
become a professional member. This was my best deal in 
trying to get the council into a more democratic way 
of operating. Naturally, it received unanimous approval; 
an organizing committee was set up. I was a member of 
the organizing committee and was asked to draw up the 
constitution, which I did. I spent a good deal of time 
on the constitution and think I worked out a beautiful 
document that would be a model for an international or- 
ganization. Among other items in it was representation 
on its highest governing body, not only of countries, but 
of branches of music. I divided music up into three main 
bodies --a performing group, the composing group, and the 
scholarship group --and gave them definite functions in 
the governance of the organization and in the meetings. 

I went to a couple of the organization meetings--Miss 


Lawler and I went together. She was representing the 

United States for that time. Finally the organization was 

set up and it had a meeting in Liege. I was getting all 

ready to go over to it when the State Department refused 

to give me a passport, and I had to get somebody to take 

my place. 

TUSLER: Why was that? 

SEEGER: Oh, I had been connected with too many dangerous, 

subversive organizations. By this time I think they had 

some kind of a dossier on me. When I'd gone into the 

Pan-American Union, they had nothing to speak of. This 

was in January, 1953 • 

TUSLER: Those were the days of McCarthyism. 

SEEGER: At the height of McCarthyism, yes. I told the 

State Department that they were acting unconstitutionally 

and would be found to be so presently when the McCarthy 

hysteria went over, but as one laywer told me, "You have 

[less] chance of getting a passport than a snowball in 

hell," so I didn't fight it. It would have cost a great 

deal anyway, and I would have been black-listed and my 

whole family would have gotten into trouble, and it was 

not worthwhile. My wife Ruth died a few months later. 

I had had a chance right before this experience with 
the passport business to sit in on a joint committee meeting 


of representatives of UNESCO and representatives of the 
Pan-American Union at the pretty oval table in the coun- 
cil room of the Pan-American Union, at which the old pro- 
ject from the International Music Council came up. This 
was in 1953. Mind you, the International Music Council 
had been going for three years. UNESCO stated its case 
that the Inter-American Music Council was unnecessary. 
The International Music Council was quite sufficient to 
do the business. The Pan-American Union, V7hen asked for 
its opinion, didn't say anything. 

There was silence around the table, till finally 
somebody said, "Well, perhaps Mr. Seeger xvould speak up." 
Mr. Seeger, seeing complete silence on the part of his 
colleagues in the Pan-American Union, said he had nothing 
to say, so the motion went dovm to defeat. My little pro- 
ject had gone through twelve committees, "through chan- 
nels," taken uncounted years--I don't know how many years, 
four, five, six years --finally emerged in a fairly prac- 
tical document approved by everybody, with a few thousand 
dollars for an organizing meeting, and it was defeated. 

The picture was a very pretty one: the defeat of a 
project that had gone through channels and the success 
of a project that had gone by the back stairs, as my 
handling of the International Music Council had. You 


see^ I think it took no longer than ahout six months from 
the time I got Duran to present the project to Huxley- 
down at his brother-in-law's house on Long Island, to the 
installment of Luiz Heitor as a permanent officer, and 
it was a foregone conclusion from the beginning that it 
would work. Meanwhile, my project that had gone through 
channels had to be rewritten each time by the twelve com- 
mittees. The amount of work was incredible. The amount 
of work for the International Music Council was minimal. 

So I decided that my interest in the Pan-American 
Union and my usefulness there was over. The Organization 
of the American States had set up a bureaucracy in 1948 
in which, in the course of five years, most of the em- 
ployees except the typists (that is, the technical men in 
between the clerical level and the executive level who were 
heads of divisions, about six of them) spent at least a 
third of their time in the corridors gossipping, and pro- 
bably another third of their time intriguing, each one 
of them trying to get ahead of the other and spending 
about one-third of their time on the business that was to 
be done. It was getting worse and worse, until finally in 
1953 the personnel department had all the rest of the four 
divisions in its hands. You had to spend hours every week 
filling out their damn blanks. Fortunately, they were 


directed by a man who was inordinately ambitious, and he 
overstretched himself. He finally reached the point where 
he had practically the whole Pan-American Union filling 
out personnel blanks. Some time after I left, I don't 
remember how long it was, he was demoted to wrapping 
packages in the shipping room and the division was abol- 
ished, [laughter] 

That's the way, however, things happened; and that, 
together with the defeat of my Inter-American Music Coun- 
cil project and the feeling that I was practically straight- 
Jacketed in the bureaucratic system, led to my voluntary 
resignation. I was two years over retirement age and 
had a right to stay on two more years, but I Just felt 
I'd had enough. The last couple of years at the Pan- 
American Union I was bored to death. About all I could 
do was to prepare memoranda, and then on the outside, 
write private letters. 

The new secretary-general, Alberto Lleras Camargo 
of Colombia, was, however, very able, a liberal Colombian 
politician, and did an excellent Job with the Pan-American 
Union as a whole. I had more money to spend; the library 
grew; the record collection grew; and I finally was given 
some money for consultants from Latin America by which I 
would be able to bring, with travel and a good fee, Latin 


Americans to help with the Washington office and take 
the place of my first specialists who had all gone off 
in different ways: Miss Lawler back to her Music Educa- 
tors' National Conference^ Luiz Heitor to UNESCO, and 
Gustavo Duran to the United Nations. Among the men that 
I brought up was Francisco Curt Lange, who was a pioneer 
in bringing the Latin-American musicians together. They 
were more prone to fight with each other than to cooperate, 
and he had founded an institute in Montevideo and had 
started publishing an annual Boletin [ Latino- Americano 
de Musica ] , the fifth volume of which I had been associated 
editor. So I got Lange on as consultant and set him dovm 
to the desk in my nice little office and set him to v/ork. 
He didn't do a damn thing but after a few weeks go to 
the Secretary-general and denounce me, saying that I was 
a perfectly good musicologist, but I hadn't the slightest 
idea how to handle the office at the Pan-American Union, 
that he could do it much better. Well, of course, that 
sort of thing never succeeds, and Lleras, who didn't know 
anything about the music program, got in touch with William 
Manger, the assistant secretary, and Manger said, "You 
leave Seeger alone," and that was the end of Lange. 

Meanwhile, there' d been some finagling on the out- 
side on the part of a more or less exiled Colombian musician. 


Guillermo Espinosa, who was an intriguer like Lange, a 
conductor who wanted in. I was not too enthusiastic 
about him, but as the candidates were ranged alongside 
of each other, I talked it over with Lleras, and Lleras 
said he would like to have Espinosa appointed. So I 
said, "Well, if you recommend your countryman so strong- 
ly, I'll be very pleased to accept him." Disregarding 
the barb, Lleras very gratefully appointed Espinosa, and 
he took his office. At that time, Espinosa was interested 
in just one thing and that was getting hold of an orches- 
tra that he could conduct; and that was one of the rea- 
sons why I wasn't particularly happy about having him come 
on, but I thought he had potentialities. 

Returning from the 1952 meetings in Paris, I dis- 
covered that over my desk had come my request to set up an 
Inter-American Music Council, and Espinosa had opened it 
and rewritten it as a project to give him opportunites 
to conduct orchestras all over the New World--Sokolovian 

Well, by the time 1 retired, it wasn't even reborn 
again; but a couple of years afterwards Espinosa got it 
through and it now exists as the Inter-American Music 
Council, and in practically the form that I outlined. 
It has not done too well; it has been torn to pieces by 


personal jealousies; but I think now after--how long has 
it been going? five, six, or seven years, it's more or 
less on the level and it's acting the way it ought to. 
TUSLER: Who was that organization responsible to, the 
Pan-American Union? 

SEEGER: It ' s a kind of a child, just the way the Inter- 
national Music Council is a child of UNESCO. The parent 
organization gives it money, gives it prestige, and secre- 
tarial help. 

TUSLER: And the parent organization is the Pan-American 

SEEGER: The Pan-American Union --that is, the Organization 
of American States. The Pan-American Union is the secre- 
tariat for the Organization of American States. 

So things, as far as international organization goes 
in music, are operating, but they're limping. Take, for 
example, a meeting called by the International Music Coun- 
cil in Paris a couple of years ago. Mantle Hood was invited 
from here, UCLA, and a number of Oriental musicians were 
invited from Japan, Indonesia, India, Africa, and so forth 
and so on. He knows them all well, personally. From the 
announcement that there was now going to be real, inter- 
continental music relations, everybody was rather hopeful 
that the Parisian tyranny would be abandoned. But as the 


initial speeches unrolled, the Orientals began looking 
at each other, sideways glances, and at Mantle, and he 
says that by the time the initial speeches were over, the 
introductory speeches by ministers of culture and secre- 
taries-general of UNESCO and that sort of thing, it was 
quite obvious that the session was going to be just one 
of the regular Paris -dominated sessions, where everybody 
sat around and listened to the same old speeches by people 
who tell the world what to do. 

This has been going on^ but there was a regional meet- 
ing in Manila last year (or was it early this year?) that 
was planned from here, and it's significant that the se- 
cretary of the International Music Council and the presi- 
dent of the International Music Council weren't even there, 
and that everybody at the meeting said that it was the 
first real international music meeting that they'd been 
to. There were no introductory speeches telling you what 
to do. There were speeches from the authorities in each 
country, saying what they were doing and what they wanted, 
so that I think things are on the way, perhaps, to break- 
ing this vicious circle of continuismo in Paris. 

But the Inter-American Music Council is still strug- 
gling. It has called two very good meetings on music 
education, where primary teachers in the schools are 


actually present. It's true they're told what to do, but 
they're listened to. We're getting down into the schools, 
at least of the capital cities, through this little or- 
ganization; its seat is in Chile, where there are some 
very intelligent women running it, and I think it's on 
the way to doing what is good. Still, there is a little 
too much control from above, but government-v/ise you have 
to build first from the top down and that they are trying 
to do. A first Inter-American Ethnomusicological Congress 
met in Cartagena, Colombia several years ago, and v/as suc- 
cessful. They had another meeting in Indiana, at the 
University of Indiana, last year (or was it two years 
ago?)--I read papers at both--so that's on its way. The 
third meetings in both of these subjects are starting, 
and there is a hope that an inter-American institute of 
ethnomusicology will be started. 

Meanv/hile, the Inter-American Music Council had set 
up an inter-American institute of masicology at Tulane 
University, under the director Gilbert Chase. It's called 
there the Inter-American Institute for Musical Research, 
but personalities have disrupted the relationship with 
the Inter-American Music Council, and the Inter-American 
Music Council is going ahead with an attempt to form an 
inter-American institute of ethnomusicology. At the joint 


meetings of the American Musicological Society and the 
Society for Ethnomusicology in New Orleans this Christmas, 
a week after Christmas, I'm going to try to bring these 
two things together. 

The personality problem is always a serious one. I 
will speak in the next tape about the musicological goings- 
on of this period of the '40's and the '50' s. There is 
there, in the International Musicological Society, an 
illustration of this point, where the effort on the part 
of very able men to hold their positions indefinitely in 
professional societies make trouble. The revolt in the 
International Musicological Society in Utrecht in 1952 
was really something to live through. 

TUSLER: Are the proceedings of the International Music 
Council published by the United Nations? Are they available 
in any form? 

SEEGER: They publish a kind of brochure, called The World 
of Music . They're on the frosting of the cake of music; 
they're floating around on the top of it; they haven't the 
slightest idea what the world of music is. It ' s a tragedy. 
They may publish minutes or something like that, but I 
haven't kept them. I really haven't wanted to see them. 
Their actions are so depressing. We have enough managers; 
we have enough patrons of music; we have enough music lovers 


who all concentrate on the professional field. 

There have been a few very nice things done by the 
International Music Council. One of them was to help 
form an International Association of Music Libraries. 
I had the pleasure in 1952 of nominating its first 
president, Richard Hill, and getting the thing elected 
to regular membership in the International Music Council. 
That organization has gone ahead and done a magnificent 
job of organizing. 



SEEGER: At the end of the last tape, we were Just about 
to take up the matter of the International Association 
of Music Libraries. After the Second World War, there 
was a very interesting mushrooming in different parts 
of the world of projects to continue the old [Robert] 
Eitner bibliography of musical sources. These projects 
more or less came to a head in the early days of the 
International Music Council. I think I v/as active in 
a small way in pushing the matter through the American 
Musicological Society, and I took it up again in the 
International Music Councilo 

Meanwhile, the West Germany, France, England, United 
States axis got underway with some actual meetings. 
Richard S. Hill, who was reference librarian in the 
Music Division of the Library of Congress, was very ac- 
tive in this; in fact, he was more or less a spark plug, 
or perhaps an organizer, who drew various drives or pushes 

The association has gone forward now in a most amaz- 
ing manner, and not only publishes a journal, but is 
making rapid headway with the survey of the monuments 
of musicology on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course 


what I'm hoping for is that it will eventually get over 

into the Orient. 

This makes a good time to break off the trend of 

this series of memories from international organization 

of music to the national organization of music in the 
United States. During the war, the American Musicologi- 

cal Society was quiescent. There were chapter meetings, 
but many of the members were in war service. There were 
three business meetings in 1942^ '43, and '44: in '42 
no papers were read; in '43, three papers were read; in 

'44, two papers. 

The meeting in 1945 was held in New York, and as I 
remember, I read a paper on a unitary field theory for 
musicology. It rather bypassed the membership. The 
secretary, [Arthur] Mendel, asked me what it meant, and 
Curt Sachs, after I had finished reading, came up to 
me, shook my hand, said it was a most interesting paper, 
but he couldn't understand it. I have oftentimes won- 
dered how a thing could be interesting if you couldn't 
understand it. At the end of it, they elected me presi- 
dent of the American Musicological Society, and the word 
went around, "God knows what's going to happen now." 
[laughter] This was reported to me by the grapevine from 
several sources, so I suppose that it was authentic. 


Things were not easy in I945 and "46. The country 
hadn't recovered from the war effort. Peoples' minds 
were still wandering on how to orient their owners in a 
new situation. Paper was scarce, and it was not easy to 
get things started again. I have already told how the 
society couldn't find paper, and how Music Educators' 
National Conference provided it, and that gave me immense 

Well, my administration of the American Musicologlcal 
Society's affairs began with a very small membership 
and a constitution written by me as secretary of a com- 
mittee of three which required prospective members to 
apply in writing and get the application signed by two 
members in good standing. If any device was ever in- 
vented to keep a society with a small membership, there 
was that device. I had fought it in the constitution 
committee. I've forgotten how the constitution came out 
of the committee, but this device was put into the con- 
stitution because there was a very strong feeling when 
the society was founded that there were a lot of dilet- 
tantes around who were beginning to call themselves musi- 
cologists, and it would be very important for the new 
society to have a group of fellows who would keep a firm 
hand in the management of the society's affairs and keep 


people out that it didn't like. Fortunately, there were 
enough opponents to this view, among them Otto Kinkeldey 
himself, to keep any classification by class out of the 
society, but it kept cropping up during the first ten 
years, and during my presidency it was a waning issue. 

But I felt that it ought to be laid to rest quietly, 
and in order to do this and straighten out a few other 
things in the old constitution that needed repair, I got 
to work upon a new constitution, not with the idea that 
it would be put into force during my administration, but 
during the next. The rails had to be laid, so to speak, 
the atmosphere had to be created in which the project to 
adopt a new constitution would be favorably received. I 
had an executive board in both years, but it was prac- 
tically impossible for it to meet except at annual meet- 
ings, and when it did, it didn't seem to have much gump- 
tion in it. 

After having dictated in the last tape the importance 
of democratic processes in international organizations, 
I must here recite an adherence to the exact opposite in 
the conduct of the affairs of the American Musicological 
Society, which I conducted in the form of a strict dic- 
tatorship. Glen Haydon, who died I think about a year 
ago, and George [Sherman] Dickinson, who died a couple 


of years ago, and I formed ourselves into a triumvirate 
that decided in camera all matters that had anything to 
do with the society. We decided that the man who had 
practically kept the society glued together during its 
first ten years of existence should be relieved of his 
responsibility. I won't mention his name, but he would 
be easily located. He's one of the best friends I have 
and an admirable man and a great musicologist; but he 
wanted to hold on to his particular job, and we felt that 
the society would be somewhat channeled in a rut if any 
one person should hold the position for more than ten 
years. So we arranged a nominating committee with Glen 
Haydon as the chairman (I've forgotten who the other two 
members were) and we didn't nominate this man, but we had 
in mind that he would be president in a few years. And 
he was. It was very important for my plans to be sure 
that the man who would follow me would follow out the 
policies that I had in mind, and that our small trium- 
virate had in mind. This man was George S. Dickinson 
of Vassar, and he was duly nominated and elected. 

The last meeting of my presidency, at Princeton, was 
a stormy one for several reasons. One of the older mem- 
bers who was no longer in office stopped Glen Haydon 
and myself in the foyer of the Princeton Inn on his way 


out and said, "Well, now, I hope you're satisfied. You've 
ruined the society." 

As a matter of fact, the society had doubled its 
membership, was presented with a new constitution and a 
fully planned project for a journal. And in the second 
year of Dickinson's administration, the journal was launched. 
It's a pleasure to pick up Volume I and to note that it is 
still published in exactly the format planned during my 

TUSLER: What year was that. Dr. Seeger? 
SEEGER: That was 1948. It so happened that Dickinson 
was an expert in topography and layout, and he planned 
the whole appearance of the journal from the most minute 
detail to the largest consideration. The margins are 
good, the type is beautiful, the paper's good, the bind- 
ing's good, the various issues are all the same height j 
and on the whole, the journal has been a very successful 
venture. There was much opposition to starting a journal 
during my administration; that was another reason why I 
thought we'd better work to prepare an ambience before we 
would actually get down to voting. 

There was a great inferiority complex among the Ameri- 
cans, and I'll have occasion to speak of this musicologi- 
cal inferiority complex later on in connection with the 


work of the Committee on Musicology of the American Coun- 
cil of Learned Societies. It was overcome and there were 
no real grounds for it. It's true that we had neither 
the tradition nor the numbers of promising graduate stu- 
dents that Germany did, but we had enough, and that has 
been abundantly proven by the subsequent issues. 

With the constitution and the journal taken care of 
and the membership increasing rapidly, I felt that far 
from ruining the society I had put it on its feet, per- 
haps for the first time in its life; but that may be a 
little subjective in the way of a judgment. 

I was tyrannous enough in my handling of the affairs 
of the society, but Dickinson v;as a real tyrant. I remem- 
ber when the new constitution came up to be voted upon 
in a meeting in Chicago, there was a lot of objection to 
it. He had a gavel in his hand, and he pounded the table 
and stopped the discussion when it seemed to be getting 
out of hand. The last time the gavel went down, there 
was a rather vociferous murmur of objection, but it had 
no effect and the constitution was rammed through. 

As I went out into the corridor afterwards, I met a 
knot of the younger men who said they were going to start 
a new muslcological society. They couldn't put up with 
this sort of manhandling; so we talked for about two hours 


in a room that we managed to get ourselves in and managed 
to calm ourselves down^ and no new society was started. 
Since that time^ these objectors have become the staunchest 
of members in the society, and I can see that at least 
two of them are likely to be presidents in their day. 

Now the society, then, was on its feet, and by this 
time it was the late 1940's. 1 had been on the Committee 
on Musicology of the American Council of Learned Societies 
since 19'^2, first under the chairmanship of Kinkeldey, and 
then under the chairmanship of Haydon. I've forgotten whe- 
ther there was anyone else before my chairmanship of the 
committee from I950 to '52. The committee functioned as 
a regular committee of the Council and took the form of 
a long-term planning unit for the development of musicology 
in the United States. It had fairly broad interest; it had 
been started back in the '20' s by Carl Engel and Oliver 
Strunk, and had a tendency to be rather holier-than-thou, 
puristic, and touch-me-not. I had attacked at least one 
of their publications as being both astigmatic and with 
blinders on. I had been useful to the Council during the 
war, and they had helped me enormously in the Pan-American 
Union. The Council was very active in the State Department 
conference on inter-American relations in the field of music, 
so that I got to know and trust implicitly Waldo G. Leland, 


the head of the Council. 

The work on the committee was extremely interesting. 
There were five or six or seven members; we would have a 
two-day meeting in Washington and would he fed royally 
by the Council, and we would discuss the various possi- 
bilities of rausicological development in the country, with 
an increasing tendency to extend the field of activities 
of the committee to music, itself, and to music education 
in the sense that graduate students have to be educated 
and that the education of graduate students depended to 
a certain extent upon what was the kind of music education 
they got in the undergraduate years in universities and 
colleges. I urgently pressed that you couldn't do much 
in the undergraduate years of the university, or even 
much in the graduate division of the university, unless 
you could improve the music education in the high schools, 
and you couldn't do much in the high schools unless you 
got busy in the secondary schools, and the secondary 
schools depended upon the primary schools, and you were 
nowhere except with remedial music education in the pri- 
mary schools unless you did something about nursery schools, 
I must say that my colleagues were patient with my urging, 
but I didn't get to first base in getting the Council to 
form a total view of either music life in the United States 


or music education in the educational structure as a 
whole. I believe I even sometimes worried them by point- 
ing out that music education begins a few days after the 
child is born, and if the mother does a good job, that 
child hears a lot of music, so that by the time the child 
is two it has a fairly good repertory of tunes in its 
head, many of which it can sing with a number of stanzas, 
as in a folk song or a ballad or something of that sort. 
One of the projects that most interested me in the 
Council was the project to compile an encyclopedia of 
music. The American branch of the Macmillan Company, 
which was quite independent of the British branch by that 
time, had offered in reply to some scouting question to 
put up a million dollars for the printing of a ten-volume 
set. Obviously, this was to knock Grove' s Dictionary of 
Music and Musicians out of business, and the British com- 
pany was not particularly pleased with the idea. 

We spent a good deal of time in our regular meetings 
on it and had some extracurricular meetings on the matter 
of the encyclopedia itself. One subcommittee took care 
of the business angle; I asked to be relieved of that be- 
cause I felt that somebody else could take care of the 
business. I was interested in the content, and George 
Dickinson and I (there was one other person on the 


committee, but I don't remember who it was) got tremen- 
dously excited about the classification of subject matter 
in the journal. I remember we sat up nearly all one night 
in the enthusiasm of working out this classification. 
George and I were both so pleased with our work that we 
thought we had entered a new phase in encyclopedia making. 

The work progressed and became more and more inter- 
esting. MGG was coming out in Germany, and they were ap- 
proached with a suggestion that we include in the American 
encyclopedia those articles in MGG that would fit into 
our plan, translated into English, of course. The Ger- 
mans answered they would like to have the whole MGG trans- 
lated, but not in pieces, and negotiations broke down. 

There was in this committee on the encyclopedia the 
same division of opinion that had existed in the musi- 
cological society from 1936 on to 19^6 and even '47, one 
side feeling that America couldn't do this sort of thing. 
It was holding back the development of musicology in 
America. It was timorous and unwarranted; we had enough 
money and were assured by Macmillan that we needn't worry 
about the million-dollar limit being too tight. Articles 
were all to be paid for at a decent, respectable price, 
and we could have drawn from the complete world of musi- 
cology for brand-new articles, many of them written by 


the authors in English or translated from other languages. 
The committee retired its members as a rule after ten 
years of service. 

Meanwhile, there were initiated in various parts of 
the country symposiums on various subjects, mostly social, 
in which one or another of the musicians was drawn in to 
read a paper. American studies were getting under way 
and I was interested in them as a matter of principle, 
although I was not a specialist in the study of American 
music. I was, however, a member of the small number of 
people who had done some work in parts of the field of 
the history of American music that were pretty much ne- 
glected: that is, folk music, popular music, hymnology, 
and the hybrids among these, such as the blues, jazz, 
country and western, hillbilly, and so forth. 

One day, I had a call from a professor who was one 
of the leaders of the American studies program, saying 
they v;ere having a meeting and they wanted somebody to 
read a paper on music and class structure in the United 
States, and who v;ould I recommend? 

I said, I don't know anyone in the United States who 
could write such a paper. If there were such a person, 
I certainly would know him. 

"Well, then," he said, "you're just the person to 
write it." 


"Ohj" I said, "I can't do it. I don't know enough 
about class structure. I'm only an amateur sociologist." 

Well, he insisted, and so as usual I would take the 
dare, always ready to go out on the limb. The paper was 
read at a meeting in the Library of Congress, distributed 
ahead of time, by the way, and read by everybody, dis- 
cussed by a discussant, and then opened to the floor. There 
must have been sixteen or eighteen people whose papers 
were similarly treated. A man who discussed my paper, an 
old friend of mine, a close colleague, spent all the time 
pointing out that I had not spent enough time on the im- 
portance of the Chautauqua lecture series, and he sat down. 
I admitted that I hadn't, and would be very glad to insert 
a paragraph on the subject, but felt that it was perhaps 
almost included in some of my generalizations. He was not 
quite happy about that. 

The chairman asked for further discussion, and there 
was dead silence. The chairman tried to brush things up 
a bit. 

Finally I rose and said, "Gentlemen, I've gone out on 
a limb here. I'm not a trained sociologist, and yet I've 
ventured to write a paper that has made a number of as- 
sumptions, perhaps you might even consider them hypotheses 
or postulates of a sociological character, and I would 


benefit greatly from any criticisms or comments that you 
could make." 

Still there was nothing said. Finally, I spoke even 
more urgently, and one man said rather nicely, "It sounds 
as if it were written by a sociologist." 

Well, I put my head in my hands and said, "That's 
too much for me," or sone thing to that effect, and we 
went on to the next paper. However, I was pleased with 
the reception of the paper on the whole and at its publi- 
cation in the journal of the American Studies Association; 
I think it was a leading paper in one of the early issues. 
(As I remember, I was one of the eleven members who foun- 
ded the society. The society's since grovm, and now 
practically all universities have American studies pro- 
grams.) Unfortunately, this bound copy of papers that 
were presented for this conference is not to be found on 
my shelves. I have a little feeling I may have given it 
to the music library here. At any rate, we'll see if we 
can't exhume a copy; the Library of Congress surely has 

I was chairman of the Committee on Musicology of the 
Council for my last two years, I95O to '52, and in plan- 
ning this conference, we really tried to have the musical 
life of the United States represented in all its important 


facets. I've forgotten how many there were; there must 
have been something like sixteen. The principal manager 
in the United States spoke for music concert management. 
We had a leading conductor; we had a leading music educa- 
tor; we had a representative of the National Music Council; 
there were people from the universities and the colleges; 
the instrument makers; and so forth and so on. Folklore 
was represented. I'll give the table of contents because 
it was a rather unusual meeting for the United States. 
It was an indication of the broadening of the Council's 
interest, and after I left the Council, I seem to under- 
stand that the name of the committee was the Committee 
on Music and Musicology. 

I had written an article or a series of articles 
for the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences back in the early 
'30' s, the title of the article being "Music and Musicol- 
ogy." It was partly historical. I engaged Helen Roberts 
to write a section on primitive music, and there was no 
one else in the United States that I could get except 
Henry Cov/ell to write on Oriental music. I think I would 
have done better if I had asked George Herzog, but under 
the circumstances it didn't seem feasible for various rea- 
sons which I needn't go into here. I had written a paper 
on "Music and Musicology in the New World." This was 


published in Hlnrlchsen's Musical Year Book and it was 
very generously reviewed. It was translated into Spanish 
and published in the Revista Musical Chilena , so that in 
a way the changing of the name of the committee to Music 
and Musicology reflects my little putsch of the years 1942 
to '52. 

I must speak now of the end of the project of the en- 
cyclopedia. (This is saddening.) We arrived at the 
meeting of the Muslcological Society in Boston, I think 
it was in 1954, and found distributed a preprint of the 
project for the encyclopedia, a preprint with the stamp 
of the American Muslcological Society on it; in other 
words, it was a preprint of an article that was to appear 
in the next journal of the society. It was a horrible 
mishmash. The English was unbelievable. I remember at 
one point it said, "There will be many phenomena in the 
encyclopedia," and then it went on and listed some classes 
of articles. 

There was only one thing that could be done to this 
project and that was to oppose it as strongly as one could j 
so I delivered an impassioned attack on it, a motion that 
the preprint be excluded from the journal and sent back 
to the American Council of Learned Societies to be edited 
in proper fashion. The discussion wandered along for some 


reason, or the chairman didn't keep the subject on the 
track, and the time for the afternoon meeting came at 
which I was to read the third paper. I had to get up and 
say I was very sorry, but I couldn't argue for my motion 
any longer, that I was not going to be guilty of the dis- 
courtesy of arriving late at a meeting at which I was read- 
ing a paper and not hear my colleagues' papers in full. 

As I walked out to the door, the chairman said, "V7ell, 
what will happen to the motion?" 

I said, "Well, either somebody can second it and car- 
ry it on, or else somebody else can propose it all over 
again," and I went off to the meeting. 

I don't know what happened, but the preprint was 
never published and the whole project collapsed. It was 
a tragedy in a way, but it was a result of a political 
division in which, I think, wiser and more knowing minds 
were not consulted; and it's just as well it did die if 
it had to be run in that way. It would have been a catas- 
trophe if anyone had tried to build an encyclopedia on 
that project. 

TUSLER: I thought the encyclopedia was the project of the 
Committee on Musicology. 

SEEGER: It was a project of the Committee on Musicology 
of the American Council of Learned Societies, but it was 
put up to the American Musicological Society for approval. 


The project was put up also for publicity purposes, for 
the purposes of getting the membership of the society to 
discuss it with the idea that the society would also be 
very closely involved with the carrying out of the pro- 
ject, which was given a life of ten years with the hope 
that in ten years the ten volumes or more could be actually 
seen in print. Originally, it was to be a worldwide en- 
cyclopedia, as over against the European encyclopedias 
which are Europa-centric, and it would need an editor and 
a board of editors who were ethnomusicologists, not musi- 
cologists--that is, in the ordinary, cant use of the term 
today. My own position is well known, that ethnomusicology 
is no name for a separate discipline of study. There is 
an approach to the study of music that can be called ethno- 
musicological, but musicology is the proper name for the 
study of the music of the world. Period. Everything in 
the world. I made this point clearly enough in the meet- 
ings of the Council's committee to have it thoroughly ac- 
cepted by everybody. 

After this tragedy in Boston, Oliver Strunk, who 
was president of AMS came up to me and asked me if I 
would be a member of a committee of the society to discuss 
this project, with the idea that an ad hoc committee of 
the society would report to the executive board and then 


either bring about a rewrite of the project, or salve 
peoples' feelings, or do something, I don't knovf what. 
I told him no, that I was getting out of committees at 
that time, and he said, "Well, can you recommend anybody?" 
So I recommended Mantle Hood. Hood duly met with the 
committee and voted for, as I urged him to do, the re- 
vamping of the project in a properly written up, universal 
coverage form, but he was voted down by the other two 
members, who evidently v/ere of the old, conservative 
branch of musicology. So the encyclopedia died. VThen I 
think of the number of hours put into it, it's really sad, 
but I suppose that happens nine cases out of ten in affairs 
of this kind. 

From 19'4-9 to 1952, I was going to Europe every year 
to the meetings for the International Music Council and 
managed to meet quite a number of musicologists there. 
In 1952, I read a paper at the triannual meeting of the 
International Musicological Society in Utrecht. The paper 
was a preface to the description of a music, which was 
very well reviewed in Die Musik Forschung a few years later. 
At that meeting. Mantle Hood was out of Holland for the 
moment. Jaap Kunst was there. 

Early in the days of the meeting I went to Knud 
Jeppesen, the president of the society and editor of the 


journal, and asked if he would rather have a society for 
comparative musicology or ethnomusicology--whichever you 
called it--formed within the International Musicological 
Society_, or outside it. 

He said, "Just wait a minute--I'm going into a board 
meeting and I'll put the question right up to them, and 
I'll tiring you an answer within half an hour." 

So he brought me the answer within the half hour: 
" outside ," which was definite enough. 

The meetings were held in the university, and the 
business meeting was in the beautiful faculty room, with 
the portraits of the past rectors of the university lining 
the walls, and old Jeppesen in the chair where he had been 
for years and years. There was a feeling on the part of 
the membership that the European way of managing things 
like this had lasted long enough. The Americans especially 
were fed up v/ith it, but there was a question who would 
lead the attack. It turned out to be Manfred Bukofzer, 
seconded by Paul Henry Lang, and the third I can't for 
the life of me remember--it might have been [Edward] Lewin- 
sky. But as the argument developed, their attack became 
more and more vitriolic, and it was a tragedy to see the 
old man trying to maintain his position while his cohorts 
and supports fell rapidly away from him, and he was finally 


displaced. The journal went into nev; editorship, and 
the administration was completely changed. 

A little bit later, in the '50' s, the American Coun- 
cil of Learned Societies concocted a radio program with 
Broadcast Music, Incorporated, the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science, and sundry other organi- 
zations, to put out a broadcast called "The World of the 
Mind." There were papers on astronomy, physics, and all 
the subjects, and among them, musicology; and for some 
unknown reason, they asked me to prepare the three-minute 
broadcast on musicology which would be read by one of 
the regular announcers, because he would have the unctuous 
voice that would convince everybody that there was a world 
of the mind. [laughter] I hope that was a form of de- 
livery that the American Council of Learned Societies 
will never consent to again. However, my paper was read 
exactly as I wrote it and it was mostly on ethnomusicology. 

I forgot [to mention before something] important. 
After going to Jeppesen and asking him about the formation 
of a society for ethnomusicology in connection v/ith the 
International Musicological Society, I went to an officer 
of the American Musicological Society and asked him to 
sound out the board of the society about the formation of 
a society for ethnomusicology within or without the 


American Musicological Society. I had always hoped it 
would be within, and that there would be two sections in 
the society, and that they would be equally important: 
they would have equal space in the journal, they would 
have equal representation on the executive branch, and 
so forth and so on. The word came back: " outside ." 

I happened to be at a meeting in Boston (I think 
it was the same meeting at which the old encyclopedia 
project had been blasted), and found myself standing in 
the aisle of a train all the way to New York with Alan 
Merriam and V/illard Rhodes. They had been to a meeting 
of the Anthropological Association sometime before and 
had talked over the possibility of organization of ethno- 
musicology with David McAllester; we started talking about 
the matter and kept it going all the way to New York. I 
told them of my two approaches to the international and 
the national musicological societies. So we formed a 
group that we called "The Colleagues," and we addressed 
all our letters to each other "Dear Colleague" and sent 
all three copies and kept one ourselves. Shortly, we 
decided to publish a newsletter at our own expense, and 
this ran for a couple of years. Just about six years 
ago, it finally led to the Journal of Ethnomusicology , 
which is now going strong. 


We managed the early society very much as George 
Dickinson and Glen Haydon and I managed the American 
Muslcological Society ten years earlier. It was a be- 
nign^i benevolent dictatorship^ and the results showed 
the wisdom of the decision. There was a meeting in 
Philadelphia of the Ethnological and Anthropological 
Society, and I wrote a constitution for the Society for 
Ethnomusicology, patterning it as closely as possible 
after the constitution of the American Musicological 
Society, so that when the time of amalgamation should 
come it would be easy for them to amalgamate. Needless 
to say, my three colleagues were not enthusiastic about 
amalgamation, and I was not hopeful of it. I gave twen- 
ty to twenty-five years as the time, and I think they 
expected to stay independent indefinitely. 

Well, to follow this strand on a little farther, I 
was elected president of the Society for Ethnomusicology 
in 1960, and discovered that one of the first matters 
to handle was a proposal from Oliver Strunk, who was 
president of the American Musicological Society, that 
the two societies amalgamate. We are getting so close 
to the end of this tape that I'm not going to be able 
to continue this, so I won't get too definitely launched 
on it. 


The situation in the Society for Ethnomusicology 
was a difficult one, and I had to be a tyrant again. I 
discovered, for example, shortly after my term began 
that the society had no budget, that people just drew 
on the treasurer for what they wanted, and that was the 
end of it. The affairs of the society were carried on 
in complete ignorance of the constitution; so to anybody 
you wanted to do something sometime, you could say, "Come 
on, let's do it," and nobody liked to be disagreeable, 
you know, in saying no, so they all did it. The affairs 
of a society run in that fashion could be imagined as 
running up against a stone wall sooner or later, so I 
had to stop it. 

My two years as president of the society were a 
continual war with my executive board. The executive 
board was all in New York, thought it ought to run the 
society and that the president should be a kind of an 
errand boy; he had been, but he no longer was going to 
be. So it was not a very pleasant situation, and I needn't 
go into too much detail about it here except to say that 
at the end of the two years, a strong administration was 
put in, as had been the case formerly with the American 
Musicological Society, when I left the presidency. 
The society has thriven ever since, though with one 


amusing little paradox which I'll deal with next time. 

I think I've covered all that I can say of interest 
about musicology during the period 1940 to I96O. There 
was an enormous increase in graduate students of musi- 
cology throughout the country. No one spoke any more 
of "grandmotherology." 


DECEMBER 12, I966 

TUSLER: In speaking about your term of duty with the AMS, 
you referred to It as "a tyranny" of Seeger and Dickinson, 
and I wondered If this tyranny that you spoke of. . . 
SEEGER: It was a dictatorship, yes. 

TUSLER: . . .was In any way opposed by the other members 
of the organization. In any specific way. 
SEEGER: No, there was no opposition. There may have 
been some Indignation somewhere, especially when Dickin- 
son put the gavel down about the new constitution so firm- 
ly; but I think people realized that things were getting 

TUSLER: They realized that your Intentions were good. 
SEEGER: Yes, I think so. AMS is pretty easygoing most 
of the time. It gets hectic sometimes in a meeting, but 
people let things slide most of the rest of the year j at 
least they used tOo I think it's vastly tightened up 
since the days of Strunk, back in I96O. 
TUSLER: You also spoke of the troika or "triumvirate," 
I guess was your word, of Seeger, Dickinson, and Glen 
Hay don. 
TUSLER: Was this a strictly informal arrangement that 


you had? 

SEEGER: Oh, nobody knew about it. We didn't try to make 
it secret; it just simply worked out that way. 
TUSLER: Was this while you were president? 
SEEGER: Yes, it developed while I was president, and it 
kept going through George Dickinson's presidency, and then 
we felt that the society was enough off on its new post- 
war career that it would take care of itself. 
TUSLER: Why was it those particular two people? 
SEEGER: Well, they happened to be congenial. Haydon 
was an old student of mine, and he and Dickinson had been 
warm friends for many years. I came to know Dickinson 
later than Haydon did. 

TUSLER: Did you come to know him through the society? 
SEEGER: Mostly through the Committee on Musicology of the 
Council of Learned Societies, but then, of course, through 
the work in the society, where we developed a very fine 

TUSLER: It was under Dickinson's presidency, wasn't it, 
that the new constitution was achieved? 
SEEGER: Yes, that was adopted, and the first issue of 
the journal came out. 

TUSLER: Is there anything you'd like to say in describing 
that new constitution, how it differed from the old one? 


SEEGER: It would have to be compared j they're both pub- 
lished . 

TUSLER: Were you instrumental in helping to write that 

SEEGER: Well, I was the secretary of both committees, 
and as secretary, I wrote the thing; and when I wrote 
something that my two colleagues didn't like, they voted 
me down on it, or supported me, as it happened. I did 
the work. You know, it's usually that way with a com- 
mittee; somebody does the work. 

TUSLER: There was no substantial opposition to the writ- 
ing of a new constitution. 
SEEGER: No, everybody wanted it. 

TUSLER: Why was it that right about that time there was 
a great increase, as you said, in the students taking 
up the field of musicology? 

SEEGER: Well, I think it was partly the influx of Euro- 
peans who had to stay here as a result of the war. They 
were brought over, you remember, for the 1939 International 
Conference; and then it was just natural growth, and it 
was a very rapid growth. 

TUSLER: Do you think it was related in any way to the 
growth of the organization? 
SEEGER: Yes; it would have started earlier, with a little 


bit better luck. 

TUSLER: About your work on the Committee on Musicology 
for the American Council of Learned Societies: how did 
you become a member of that, are you selected or elected? 
SEEGER: You're just appointed, you're just invited by 
the Council; and usually the committee, when a member re- 
tires, selects a new one. 

TUSLER: In connection v/ith the paper on music and class 
structure that you spoke of reading, I believe it was 
through the Committee on Musicology that you did it. Why 
was it, do you think, that there was so little reaction 
from the audience? 

SEEGER: I think that's a good question. The average per- 
son, when he finds himself in the company of a musician, 
unless he is a very reckless person (and academicians rare- 
ly are) becomes tongue-tied; he doesn't dare pipe up. 
Once they get away from the music specialists, then they'll 
talk very freely among themselves; they all have ideas, 
but they don't dare let them out. Now this, of course, is 
true. If I found myself in company with a physicist, I 
wouldn't feel very cheerful about volunteering anything; 
I'd sit down and listen to him, and that's the situation. 
There was myself there and the discussant of my paper-- 
that was two musicians, and they sort of let it go at that. 


TUSLER: They surely thought of you as a musician or a 
musicologist rather than a sociologist, didn't they? 
SEEGER: Yes. Even though I told them I wasn't, one of 
them, as I said, volunteered that it sounded as if it had 
been written by a sociologist, which of course pleased me 
very much. But still it had attackable things in it, and 
I think it would have been a good idea if they'd been 
willing to risk it. Maybe it is a little better nowadays, 
in these panel discussions; but when they were first ini- 
tiated back there in the '40's, people hesitated to pitch 
in and ask questions that were valid from the viewpoint of 
their own specialty o I think we've reached a point now 
where I would go into almost any meeting on any subject 
that was in discursive speech that I could understand, and 
even though it were on a subject that I might not know 
much about I might find a question to ask about the method 
of attack or presentation. But in those early days, that 
was not so true. The discussions were in my experience 
not very meaningful <, 

TUSLER: Of course, this whole subject was a kind of upstart 
one, wasn't it? 

SEEGER: It was a conference on American culture between 
the wars, and the papers were written by all kinds of people, 
I said that the situation between the wars was no different 


between what went before and what came after--it was all 
one piece --and I didn't think the period between the wars 
was particularly striking musicologically speaking, al- 
though I did bring out some peculiar points of it. 
TUSLER: But within the musical world it would have been 
considered a rather upstart subject, wouldn't it? 
SEEGER: You mean if it had been a musical conference? 
No, I think there 'd have been very lively arguments. It 
would have been a very much better argument than it was 
with the sociologists. The sociologists had, so to speak, 
almost a mutation, a sport--music--to fit into their pic- 
ture, which they had not given much of any attention to, 
whereas all musicians and musicologists have plenty of 
ideas about music and society--not that they've studied 
sociology or anthropology, most of them haven't; but 
they've got ideas just the same. It would have been a 
hectic meeting, the reason for it being that there was 
a little touch of irony in my paper on the effort to "make 
America musical" in the music appreciation scheme of things, 
pointing out that only a small percentage of the population 
of America at any time has even been to a concert or to a 
chamber music concert or to the opera. The great mass of 
the people get along, and especially at that time were 
still getting along, with very little knowledge of Beethoven, 


Bach, and Brahms. They hear more of it now over the radio, 
whether they like it or not, and I think that the audience 
for the professional art of music has increased by leaps 
and bounds through the radio. 

TUSLER: I want to ask you a question about the preprint 
that was distributed at the Boston meeting of the AMS 
that spelled the doom of the encyclopedia. Why was it, 
do you think, that neither you nor Mr. Dickinson nor some- 
body who had worked on this encyclopedia project hadn't 
had something to do with getting out this preprint? 
SEEGER: Well, we were no longer on the committee; and I 
think it v/as simply a situation that--whatever the com- 
mittee was, I don't know--the committee perhaps didn't 
pass on it. I don't know. Maybe it was a pushover; I don't 
know what it was. I never heard. 

TUSLER: You never knew who it was that had actually 
written the thing? 

SEEGER: Oh, yes, I knew who had written it; not at the 
time--I was told afterwards. It was an old friend of mine, 

TUSLER: Last time you began talking about the Society for 
Ethnomusicology, and you spoke about its beginnings in the 
group that you informally formed and called "The Colleagues;" 
and I wonder if you will tell now more about all the people 


who were involved in that. 

SEEGER: Well, Alan Merriam was a graduate of Herskovits' 
training; Herskovits thought very highly of him at North- 
western University. An anthropologist who had an interest 
in music and had done the largest bibliography of jazz 
up to that time, David McAllester was also an anthropolo- 
gist, and significantly, he was the only man that George 
Herzog ever gave a PhD to--I don't know whether he got 
his PhD when Herzog was at Columbia, but I think it was 
in Indiana. McAllester was set up at Wesleyan in Middle- 
town, Connecticut. Merriam and McAllester were very warm 
friends and saw things very much in the same way. Willard 
Rhodes was at Columbia for many years as a member of the 
Department of Music. McAllester and Merriam had mostly 
collected in North American Indians, and Merriam was get- 
ting into Africa. Rhodes had collected also in American 
Indians, and was getting into Africa. He was an older 
man and came to the ethnomusicological viewpoint through 
music rather than through anthropology, but he had a thor- 
ough anthropological background o I came to the group 
through music, with an informal training in anthropology, 
beginning way back in the old Berkeley days with Kroeber 
and Lowie . 

We formed a rather well-balanced group. It was a 


very harmonious group. It cost us something like forty 
or sixty dollars apiece each year to run off the little 
mimeographed sheets that Alan Merriam edited; and when 
we organized and adopted the constitution in Philadelphia 
at the meeting in 1956, I think it was, and decided to 
publish the journal, everything went very nicely and smooth- 
ly. I've forgotten what the order of the presidency was, 
but it was decided among the four of us that it would be 
suchj and it has led us for the present time to Mantle 
Hood as president. He was the last one of the planned 
order. The order was Rhodes, Kolinski, myself, McAllester, 
and then Hood. That brings us to our ten-year anniversary 
this December. 

TUSLER: But in these formative years there was just the 
small group of you, the four people. 

SEEGER: There were just the four, yes. It was a very nice 
piece of [work], beginning from very little in a very modest 
way, and not , interestingly enough, by calling it an Ameri- 
can society. It's the Society for Ethnomusicology. At the 
last meeting in New Mexico last fall, some foreign members 
were elected to the council, and chapters in foreign coun- 
tries are now being organized, so it may possibly become a 
worldwide society, we don't know. It'll be run from here 
for a while simply because most of the members are here. 


and that means the treasury is here; but I'm rather ready- 
to believe it might turn into an international society-- 
or it might amalgamate with AMS. That's a decision for 
later on. 

TUSLER: Was there any one particular leader in those ear- 
ly years before it became an official society? 
SEEGER: No, we were a very democratic and cooperative 
group. Merriam put more work into it than anyone else, 
because he edited the newsletter. 
TUSLER: To whom did the newsletter go? 

SEEGER: To as large a list as we could find of those in- 
terested in it. 

TUSLER: You spoke of the early years of the society as 
being, like the AMS, a dictatorship. 

SEEGER: Well, it had to be. VJe were putting up the money 
and in continual correspondence. The correspondence, by 
the way, is being deposited at Wesleyan [University, Mid- 
dletown, Connecticut]. We are all sending in our files. 
TUSLER: These early years are documented only by means 
of the newsletter. 

SEEGER: The newsletter and our correspondence, which was 
in the form, mostly, of identical letters--the exchange 
of Identical letters among the four of us. 
TUSLER: When you stopped talking last time you had just 


gotten to the point where the AMS had approached the 

SEEGER: Yes. Well, the irony of that was that by the 
time the SEM was five years old, actually eight years old 
but five years old as an organization, we had a pretty 
good Idea that if we'd become amalgamated with AMS they'd 
eat us alive, and that would be the end of us. So we 
realized that we'd have to develop our own program, and 
I must say that as time has gone on and successive AMS 
presidents have sought amalgamation, the stand of the So- 
ciety for Ethnomusicology has been stiffer and stiffer. 
I think there is almost an even chance now that we might 
turn into an international ethnomusicological society. We 
would have to settle matters with the International Folk 
Music Council there, because the International Folk Music 
Council is moving in that direction, too, and there are 
bound to be clashes, so that conversations will probably 
be held in both directions. 

The journal of the Ethnomusicological Society is get- 
ting better and better, and bigger and bigger; it's attract- 
ing more; our membership is growing very rapidly; I wouldn't 
be surprised if within five years we'll have a membership 
as large as the American Musicological Society. We do not 
have the standing with the sources of funds--foundations — 


that the American Musicological Society has earned, but 
we'll earn that in time. We became members of ACLS this 
year, and I shall be first delegate to the meeting of the 
Council in January, I967 . On the whole, the little society 
is doing very well. It has quite a number of chapters; I 
don't know how active they are; the one in Los Angeles is 
most active. It meets pretty nearly every three weeks and 
it is doing very nicely. 

TUSLER: Do you feel that it would be good to have amal- 
gamation with the AMS? 

SEEGER: Eventually perhaps yes, but not for quite awhile. 
Did I tell the story of Strunk's inquiry about the future 
of musicology? He had circularized eighteen musicologists 
in Europe and America as to the future of musicology (I 
was one), and seventeen of them said "ethnomusicology." He 
also circularized his own board, which has twelve members, 
and only one of them disagreed that ethnomusicology was 
the future. I think they're very anxious to effect a union, 
and I'm very sympathetic with this, because to my mind the 
field of musicology is all music, not the study of any 
particular music, but the study of all the music in the 
world. Now, I think the members of the AMS are not ready 
to give that definition yet, but I feel quite sure that 
the leaders of AMS feel that eventually music history, which 


is the specialty of AMS, is going to move over into the 
history of the great Oriental musics and the connections 
among them^ and that to thoroughly understand the history 
of any area or of any idiom, you must have a theory of 
history that's grounded upon universal postulates. 

I'm very sympathetic with the AMS desire to amalgamate 
with SEM, but SEM is very strongly anthropological. When 
we have a knock-down, drag-out discussion of what is eth- 
nomusicology, we usually come to a friendly agreement at 
the end that it's half anthropology of music, and half the 
music of anthropology --that is, it's half anthropology and 
half music. The anthropologists promptly forget the musi- 
cological half and the musicologists, the anthropological 
half; but there are a few of us, like myself, who try to 
keep pulling them together all the time. I think more and 
more there is a consensus, let's say, that you've got to 
balance between the two things: the view of music from 
outside as a cultural factor, and from inside as a means 
of communication itself. Personally, I find myself not too 
much in agreement with, I'm afraid, any one person, in 
that I think the study of music from outside also involves 
biology, zoology, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, 
aesthetics, ethics, comparative religions, communication 
theory. I find I get ready agreement with this view from 


almost anyone I talk to, but then he promptly forgets it 
and goes ahead and deals with the situation as he's been 
accustomed. We've gotten into ruts in musicology, too, 
unfortunately, and our problem for the next ten or fif- 
teen years is going to be to either get out of the ruts 
or else run them together all in one big rut; I don't 
know, probably both will happen. I only hope it doesn't 
reach the point where there'll be a split, either between 
musicology and the rest of the humanities, or ethnomusi- 
cology and the history of European music. 

We announced a series of lectures here at the Uni- 
versity, just finished, I think, last week, in which there 
was a marked agreement about what the series of lectures 
as a whole covered. The subject of the lectures was "the 
many languages of music" I objected; it made no more 
sense than "the many musics of language;" if they would 
accept them both I would not quarrel, but a music is not 
a language, and a language is not a music. Most of my 
colleagues hold that the field of ethnomusicology is all 
the music in the world except the fine art of European 
music, which strikes me as one of the most ludicrous po- 
sitions that you could take. It would be almost as funny 
if a psychologist said, "Well, the field of psychology is 
the left lobe of the brain; we have nothing to do with the 


right;" or a physicist would say, "I only study positive 
particles;" or an astronomer, "I never study the southern 
hemisphere, just the northern hemisphere." I feel con- 
vinced that people will come around to my viewpoint, but 
I'm the only person in the United States, except Mantle 
Hood, so far as I know, who's put himself in print as 
saying that the study of musicology is the musicality of 
man, all the music in the world, and all that's related 
to either. Many persons have held this view since before 
1885, when Chrysander and Adler put it into print. 
TUSLER: Surely this must be the view of most ethnomusi- 
cologists, though, isn't it? 

SEEGER: They vary. It started off way back before the 
Second World War with the old German society, the Gesell- 
schaft zur Erforschung der Musik des Orient. They were 
just going to study Oriental music » Then the first thing 
you know, they were studying primitive musics from all over 
the world, and they had to change the title to comparative 
musicology. Then, when Kunst formed the new title, ethno- 
musicology, in 1950 or a little after, he specifically 
said that its field was non-European music, and Bukofzer 
agreed with him. "But," Kunst said, "European folk music 
must be studied with the methods of ethnomusicology." Well, 
then I get into an argument with him and point out that 


It's as foolish to try to study the fine art of European 
music without the study of its folk music as it would be 
to study the written literature of music without studying 
its oral literature; so that we are in a transition stage 
now, when the term "muslcology" is going to cover the whole 
field, and I feel confident that the term "ethnomusicology" 
will be reserved for an approach to the study of music, and 
for a person who spends most of his time emphasizing that 
approach. It's futile to say that you can study music in 
society without knowing what the music ls_ that's in the 
society; so you've got to study the music as well, and 
that's the job of muslcology. 

I hope that the members of AMS are going to take a 
more active and aggressive attitude and say, "Now look 
here, you ethnomusicologlsts, you're using knowledge that 
we've given you from our study of the history of European 
music, and sometimes you're not using it very cleverly and 
with as much competence as you might." On the other hand, 
the ethnomusicologlsts are now increasingly active and 
aggressive. They are the most aggressive of the two, say- 
ing, "You music historians of the fine art of European mu- 
sic, you have a practically bankrupt terminology; it ' s a 
terminology that you've inherited from ancient days; it's 
been encrusted with so many barnacles that it means a 


different thing to almost every person. Look here, what 
do you mean by this?" 

I think in the next ten or fifteen years, some of 
the orthodox terms like tone, rhythm, melody, harmony, 
form, and content, and a lot of those old terms are going 
to have to be redefined. I perhaps should point out at 
this time the project for an international commission on 
musical terminology. I've been worried about it for a great 
many years, and I suggested it informally about thirty 
years ago, but finally put it into writing about ten 
or fifteen years ago. I heard that the International Or- 
ganization of Standards, which is the body that fixes the 
diapason normal, the A-440 was interested, but this was 
unfortunately about tvfo years after an exchange of letters 
across national boundaries, which disclosed there was not 
enough interest among those corresponding. I promptly 
wrote to the secretary of the international organization 
and was told that the interest had flagged. 

So I put it up to the American Musicological Society, 
at the meeting in Boston I think I've spoken of already; 
Harold Spivacke jumped up and said that this was just the 
sort of thing for the Council of Learned Societies to 
handle. I think he was the representative of the society 
on the council at that timej at any rate, he said he would 


pursue the matter. Nothing happened. I think there is 
a little more of a ground swell in the way of an interest 
in this, but we'll have to have a conference on a cross- 
disciplinary and a cross-cultural music vocabulary. It 
would be in the form, I think, of a continuing committee, 
made up of Western musicologists, Japanese, Indian, Afri- 
can, and perhaps someone from the Middle East; I don't 
know if we could find an interest. 

TUSLER: But nothing is really being done about it. 
SEEGER: Nothing's being done just now. We've been talk- 
ing of having an international meeting on ethnomusicology 
for years, but it seems too big a thing to swing just for 
the moment. 

TUSLER: Are there any other ethnomusicological organiza- 
tions elsewhere? 

SEEGER: No, there's no other. We have in the Ethnomusi- 
cological Society a growing split between the people who 
approach their field from anthropology and those who approach 
it from music. There could be conceivably another group 
that could be approaching it from psychology and physiology, 
but that has not defined itself yet. There is a small 
nucleus which has not made itself vocal yet, which is con- 
sumed with interest in computers and information theory. 
The increasing stresses among these very different approaches 


might split the Society for Ethnomusicology if we're not 
careful. I see a danger there. 

TUSLER: At the end of the last tape, you just barely 
touched upon when the society was newly formed and Just 
beginning to move, you used the work "paradox" --there 
was some paradoxical situation that you didn't describe 
on the tape. 

SEEGER: I think I was referring to the fact that the AMS 
wanted us to form separately in 1953a and wanted to amal- 
gamate in i960. I think that was it. 

The members of the historiographical branch of musi- 
cology are definitely running short of what you might call 
major matters of attention. They've done a very thorough 
job, and more and more of the papers that are read are 
details of the field. Edward Dent was very well aware of 
that and he saw it as a danger to musicology, and I know 
would have been very friendly. If it had been Dent that 
I'd asked in Utrecht in 1952, whether ethnomusicology should 
be developed within or without the international society, 
he would have said within j but he was old, then, and died 
shortly afterwards. 

TUSLER: It's true, is it not, that the field of ethnomusi- 
cology is spreading very rapidly now? 
SEEGER: It's an enormous field, and it's enormous not only 


in the number of people involved, but the integration of 
the music with the people. Take for example the fine art, 
or what I'd prefer to call the professional art of Euro- 
pean music, which is the field of most of the members of 
the American Musicological Society. That music is suppor- 
ted by a very limited percentage of the population: the 
ruling class of Europe and America and now of Japan, the 
educated classes, and increasingly the middle classes that 
get snatches of professional music over the radio and pho- 
nograph. They do not make it, it is made for them. But 
that professional music I would not say is integrated very 
closely in the culture of the great continental countries 
or England or the United States. It's a frosting to a 
cake. I made the metaphor in my paper in Acta Musicologica 
that was published in 1939^ and quite a number of musicolo- 
gists have said to me that it amuses them very much that 
I speak of the professional art or the fine art of European 
music as the frosting on the cake. They admit somewhat 
ruefully that it is. 

But you come to a place like Java and it's not the 
frosting on the cake of Javanese music. Mantle Hood tells 
us that even poor rice workers in the paddy, when it rains 
very hard, will pull straw mats over them to protect them- 
selves as well from the rain as they can, and pull out 


their little wooden anklungs and play the same music that's 
played at the prince's court as well as they can; and they 
play it pretty well^ too, because some of them might he 
musicians in the gamelan of the prince's court. So we 
have a very different situation with music in the rest 
of the world than that which it enjoys in what we ordin- 
arily call the West. 

Take, for instance, the song of a shaman who is cur- 
ing the sick person. That song is either inveighing 
against the devil that possesses the sick person or try- 
ing to get the help of the benign being that will help get 
the devil out. It's a life-and-death thing, and it has 
to be done just right or else it won't have the proper 
result. The interesting thing is that some modern scholars 
are coming to the conclusion that these songs sometimes 
are as efficacious as some pills that we use--that is, they 
actually do build up the courage of the sick person to 
make a fight for life, in that vague limbo between what 
we have to do and what we want to do. 

As ethnomusicology makes more and more clear the vital 
function of music in non-Western societies, quite a dif- 
ferent view is going to be had of the music of Haydn and 
Mozart and Beethoven, which was made for the courts of the 
noble and the salons of the well to do; not that the 


music wasn't great and fine in its way, but did it have 
the impact on the people who heard it that some music does 
that you find in some non-European cultures? For instance, 
in ancient Hawaii, I think Miss Roberts told me, if I can 
quote her correctly, that if the singer did not sing the 
sacred songs in the right tone of voice, he was promptly 
beheaded; a particular tone quality was an essential fac- 
tor in the efficacy of the song. 

I think our whole view of European music, in other 
words, in another ten or fifteen years is going to be modi- 
fied, and v;hen we get _at the ethnomusicology of the history 
of European music it's going to be fascinating, because 
there is_ music way down at the bottom of the pile, whether 
you call it pop or folk or whatever it is, that while it 
may not mean as much as a shaman's song may mean to the 
patient he's trying to heal, it does approach it. 
TUSLER: It's surely significant that there's a great grow- 
ing interest in this whole field of ethnomusicology. It 
is spreading and attracting more and more students all the 
time, isn't it? 

SEEGER: Oh, yes; if we could only resolve our inner dif- 
ferences. What I'm trying to do is to make an overall pre- 
sentation so that the student will know what he's getting 
into. If a student thinks, "Shall I go into physics or 


chemistry? "--well^ physics and chemistry can present to 
the student perfectly intelligible patterns of thinking 
and feeling; the same can be done with a person who, 
suppose, is wobbling on the border of zoology and the 
physiology of man--there is the work with the primates 
that involves them both. All through the present struc- 
ture of learning, there are clearly defined alternatives 
that have become so sharp that they develop new fields 
between them, and a student who might be wobbling betv/een, 
and not be able to make up his mind whether to follow one 
or the other in an either/or proposition, finds a middle 
point which just suits him and sometimes hits the nail on 
the head. That's one of the things that we have to do in 
not only musicology, but ethnomusicology. It's emerging 
now. My slogan, that the crux of historical method is 
how the present is coming to be what it's going to be, I 
think is going to be more understood later. The next ten 
or fifteen years should see more or less a clear dividing 
up of special interest, and it may mean not more integra- 
tion of societies, but more splitting up into pieces. 
TUSLER: Is the institute at UCLA the largest such enter- 
prise anywhere in the United States or the world? 
SEEGER: I don't really know how large a group McAllester 
has at Wesleyan or Merriam has at Indiana. Indiana is 


developing a composite program. Merriam has an anthro- 
pology of music and List has an ethnomusicology of Latin- 
American studies; of course they work together, I suppose. 
List, however, was a musician; his approach is from music. 
It's a very good combination there, if the two can work 
together well. I suppose here, from the point of view of 
the number of people involved, we have the largest group, 
but what we're famous for here is performance. I was sorry 
to see one student that I'd hoped would come here go some- 
where else, because the emphasis here was felt to be on 
performance rather than theory; there i_s an emphasis on 
theory here, but it doesn't show itself to the extent that 
the performance does because the performance simply does 
get more publicity. I suppose that the ethnomusicological 
work here is world famous now, v/hereas the theory will go 
a long time before it gets to be world famous, or even 
nationally famous. 

How theory is going to compete v;ith performance in 
ethnomusicology in the United States is going to be very 
interesting to see. The centers for ethnomusicology are 
increasing, and I have yet to see one that is looking to- 
ward amalgamation with anything, except at UCLA. That 
reminds me, I must get out a paper on that. Some univer- 
sity ought to try to make it its special job to tie the two 
together, over the heads of both. 


TUSLER: The two--niusicology and ethnomusicology? 
SEEGER: Musicology and ethnomusicology, and the anthro- 
pology of ethnomusicology and the musicology of ethnomu- 

TUSLER: Are there any other society connections that you've 

SEEGER: I've been on the fringes of the American Folklore 
Society for a number of years. I read papers--I think 
about thirty years ago I read my first paper-- and attended 
some meetings. I'm not involved with the special interest 
of folk tale and riddle and proverb that they are almost 
coming to concentrate on. Some very fine work has been 
done in ethnomusicology by people whose main affiliation 
is the American Folklore Society, especially [Bertrand H.] 
Bronson in Berkeley and Samuel P. Bayard in Pennsylvania 
State. They are two outstanding older students of folk 
music, and they are loyal members of the American Folklore 
Society. Some of the younger men in the American Folklore 
Society are turning to fields that have been ignored by 
ethnomusicologists; I think especially of jazz, blues, 
country and western, hillbilly, rock-and-roll music. These 
young men find themselves working under the aegis of folk- 
lore more congenially than under the aegis of either the 
ethnomusicology here or the ethnomusicology of Indiana 


or Wesleyan. They are forming their ovm little group^ 
and I don't know just exactly where they'll settle. They 
can take just so much technical descriptive work^ and tech- 
nical descriptive work is what is specialized in here, be- 
cause technical description goes along with performance. 
Theory has a tendency to go off by itself and finds it- 
self uniting with philosophy and psychology and informa- 
tion theory and anthropology and zoology and so forth, so 
that we have a field which is at once manifesting centri- 
petal forces and also centrifugal forces. These tv;o sets 
of forces of course mean a livelier life, but they may mean 
more need for overall organizations. 

For some unknown reason, they made me a fellow of the 
Folklore Society and look upon me as a respectable member; 
I've never taken a course in folklore, but I've tried to 
find out what it is, and written as if I thought I knew 
something about it. Still, I don't consider myself a folk- 
lorist. But I'll tell them any day, as I have in a paper 
that's just been printed, that I think folklore is one of 
the most comprehensive studies that we have, and that it's 
a shame that folklorists have been specialists in a rather 
small part of their field. As some nonfolklorists have 
pointed out, there's a folklore to medicine, there's a folk- 
lore to law, there's a folklore to politics, there's a 


folklore to practically everything--and folklorists pay 
no attention to it. They leave it to others to point out. 
Some day the techniques of folklore are going to be ex- 
tended into these fields, and when that happens no am- 
bassador will there be sent to another country without a 
course in the folklore of the country he's being sent to. 
Now, we just make one disgraceful and sometimes fatal 
error after another for ignorance of the folklore of 
another country; not wishing to get too much embedded 
in contentious issues just at the present moment, but 
what's been going on in Indonesia and in Vietnam would 
not have been going on if we knew something about the 
folklore of those countries, and our governmental people 
and even our learned people don't know the folklore of 
those countries. 

TUSLER: Or think it's of greatly inferior substance, com- 
pared to ours? 

SEEGER: Yes. This superior/inferior business, of course, 
is one of the things that learning is supposed to batter 

TUSLER: Is there any kind of cooperation between the Folk- 
lore Institute at UCLA and the Ethnomusicology Institute? 
SEEGER: Yes, we work together as well as we can. But the 
daily work takes us off in such diverse directions that 


there's not as close daily consultation as I would like 
to see. The places of work are separate — that's one mis- 
fortune. If we were both in the same building it v;ould be 
much better; it's hard to get from one building into ano- 
ther, and that's sad. Also, another thing that hinders 
us is that the work in the Institute of Ethnomusicology 
is mostly instrumental, and the instrumental music doesn't 
touch folklore the way the vocal music would; and yet, 
although the actual performance work is all in the instru- 
mental performance, in the first report of the institute 
three articles on folk music were published, which is sig- 
nificant. So there will be closer cooperation, but it's 
hard to manage it . 

TUSLER: Now what v;e have to do is go back and pick up the 
story of your life where you stopped. You've been talking 
about your organizational activities, but I believe that 
chronologically the point at which you stopped was when 
you left the Pan-American Union. What year was that? 
SEEGER: 1953- 

TUSLER: And then did you come directly to UCLA? 
SEEGER: No, my wife died that year, and I didn't want to 
stay any longer in the house or in Washington. I can tell 
that story when it comes; there's not much of any impor- 


JUNE 19, 1970 

SEEGER: It's now several years since I dictated the first 
seven tapes in this oral history. When I first received 
the transcript, I was horrified. The plan that I had adop- 
ted for making them seemed to be inadequate. There was an 
enormous amount of trivial detail. I don't know whether 
the second or third reading of it might have quite a num- 
ber of cuts made. My idea was that I'd put myself on a 
psychoanalytic couch with only such censorship as would be 
required by the fact that I was interviewed by a lady, the 
wife of a friend of mine, Mrs, Tusler. The plan was to 
avoid any attempt to make a picture of my autobiography. 

The trouble with most autobiographies: they're writ- 
ten to present the person's idea of himself to the readers, 
and very often it's a pure fabrication that is literarily 
interesting but perhaps, as data for a study of a person- 
ality, misleading. Of course, there is a certain amount 
of that in any presentation. Even on the psychoanalytic 
couch it's hard not to "artif icialize" the situation. 
This is the very nature of the art of speech. It's a 
construction, and try as hard as we may, making the speech 
construction correspond to a situation which one would like 
to present as reality is very limited by the means of 


communication, much more limited, I think, than the aver- 
age person would like to admit, but which I am a little 
hit inclined to exaggerate because of ray distrust of the 
art of speech, which basis I think this oral history shows, 
way back before I became anything else except a user 
of speech in terms of common sense--that is, as Mantle 
Hood says, the kind of speech you use at the time you're 
eighteen--but it was the kind of speech that I used up 
to the time I was twenty-six. And I've never given it up, 
because I think it is one of the pillars not only of hu- 
man intercourse, but of academic study. The attempt of 
academicians to rule out common sense seems to me a hope- 
less one, and a matter which is more likely to present 
everything it presents in a false light than to say what 
one really would want to have stand as truth. This, of 
course, is to a certain extent true even in the natural 
sciences, mathematics, too, physics, and increasingly in 
the social sciences. When you come to the humanities, 
it's Just self-deception to try to pretend that common 
sense isn't one of the pillars of communication, that is, 
the pillars that we stand upon when we communicate, es- 
pecially by means of speech, because there are so many 
other ways of communicating: by music; by design, that is, 
painting and drawing; by "artifacture," as I call it. 


everything from sculpture and architecture down to making 
pins and needlesj then^ on the other hand, of dance in 
human movement, from combat to lovemaking. The attempt 
to put into these tapes, then, a memory of past times with 
an accent on the development of a man who eventually came 
around to calling himself a musicologist, although he re- 
sisted it for most of his life, is a legitimate one, but 
I think, as I read the transcript, it seems to me that I 
didn't do too good a job there. I brought in too much, 
as I say, too much trivial detail, although, perhaps, some- 
one who would read this, if they ever do, fifty or sixty 
years from now or one-hundred years from now, might say 
that it revealed more than I think it did. 

One more thing I'd like to say before Ann asks her 
first question is that subsequent study-- that is, subse- 
quent to my twenty-sixth year--revealed to me that 1 fell 
myself into a classification that I had never heard of be- 
fore. In fact, I never heard of it until comparatively 
recently^ It's the philosophy of Mo Ti, the contemporary 
of Confucius who opposed him. Where Confucius held out 
for the wise, controlled, internal man, and the princely 
appearance outside. Mo Ti said nonsense. The only thing 
that human beings do is to try to get along in life, pro- 
tecting themselves as well as they can, and if they're 


Wise, they realize that the wisdom that Confucius praises 
so highly is unattainable, and the princely outer appear- 
ance is for the most part rather laughable. In other 
words, he was a rank pragmatist, and, some of us might 
feel, even cynic, in his not wanting to be an outstanding 
person, not wanting to-let -s say, trying to avoid any 
put on in the way of how he would look, and coming to the 
conclusion that no matter what he did, he would never 
amount to anything anyway. He'd just be a living orga- 
nism that did its best to survive. I haven't read any Mo 
Ti in the original, or even in translation. All I know 
about him is references. But the philosophy grew upon me 
as I modulated, I might say, from the age of twenty-six 
on to my present age of eighty-three and a half. At twen- 
ty-six I was a living image of the emulator of Confucius. 
I thought I was on the way to becoming as wise as anybody, 
and I certainly did my best to maintain a princely exter- 
ior. But, as I record in one of the early tapes, this 
image was pretty much shattered by my first six years at 
Berkeley, so that by the time I was about twenty-one I 
was reduced to the level of the most abject Moism and 
literally gave up trying to be anything or to do anything 
except just merely survive for about ten years. In the 
course of the decades from twenty on to sixty, as revealed 


in the seven tapes, I built up a modus vivendi which was 
still Moistic, but not abject, as it was in the twenties. 
The twenties, by way of resume, resumed a withdrawal 
from life. I lived like a hermit--never expected to do 
anything of any importance, didn't pretend to be anything 
of any importance, especially in relation to my fellow 
man, whom I simply gave up as a vast mass of people like 
myself who were under the illusion that they could amount 
to anything or do anything except merely exist. This was 
strengthened by the study of Yoga, which is infused, of 
course, with that belief, only on the higher level, of a 
philosophical sort, that all existence was illusion, non- 
existence also was illusion, and reality was not only 
that which exists, but that which doesn't exist, and that 
which neither exists nor doesn't exist. The realization 
of this philosophical belief in the physical life through 
the various exercises and disciplines of breathing and 
concentration of attention and so forth revealed a great 
deal that led me from the rather more abject Moism into 
which I'd fallen around I920 and I921. The abjectness of 
Moism was largely due to the psycho-physical breakup, which 
resulted from the seven-years' struggle in Berkeley, not 
only with my inner problems but tny problems in relation 
to the outer life. 


The awakening that I spoke of in the early thirties 
took care of many of the problems that had defeated me 
in the teens. The idea that one could connect music with 
society had worked beautifully through the thirties and 
the forties and up into the fifties, when I realized that 
I'd done all that I could to connect music and culture 
and society: first, through the making of music for the 
labor movement in the thirties; second, and also from 
1935 to 1940, in the emergency agencies of the United 
States government under the Roosevelt New Deal; and then 
in the forties and early fifties, upon the international 

The death of my wife Ruth in 1953, leaving me vjlth 
four young children to take care of and retirement from 
a paying job, presented a new situation which fortunately 
resolved itself by marriage to my old childhood sweetheart- 
I don't know what to call her--Margaret Dickinson, as I 
knew her. (But she'd been married twice and had five 
children.) But the marriage was no sooner entered upon 
than it began to break up. And I was living comfortably 
enough knowing that the marriage had its limits, and that 
I just had to, what shall I say?--not "endure," that's 
not fair, because it was rather nice while it lasted--but 
to see it gradually break up was a little sad during the 


period of 1955 to i960. About the middle of that period, 
in 1952, I received a copy of a--I've forgotten whether 
this is repeating or not, but it won't do any harm to re- 
peat it— I'd been to a meeting of the International Musi- 
cological Society at Utrecht and read a paper. And that 
happened to me at the time, or just shortly after the time 
that Mantle Hood had been there. I met [Jaap] Kunst and 
he introduced me to a charming young woman who was one of 
those who played in the gamelan that Hood had been also 
active in. (I'll put in her name later, the office has 
it.) Shortly after that--I didn't hear of Hood at that 
time, or if I did, it didn't make any impression on me-- 
Kunst showed me over the beautiful Javanese section of the 
museum,^ and we had a number of long talks. But very 
shortly after that, in Santa Barbara--! think it was 1957-- 
I received a book^* by Mantle Hood on patet in Javanese 
music. I was struck by its being on a higher level than 
anything I had seen in the way of musicological writing 
about a music. The [Erich M. von] Hornbostel work was 
mostly the work of a man in an armchair who worked with 
the discs, very poor acoustic discs, of anthropologists 

*The Tropen Museum in Amsterdam where Kunst keeps his 

"^^The Nucle ar Theme as a Determinant of Patet in Javanese 

Music (Groningen, 195^) . 


and folklorists in the field. I knew the Musik des Orient , 
that beautiful album put out in Germany, and the old Demon- 
stration Sammlung of the Phonogramm-Archivs in Berlin. I 
knew Curt Sachs somewhat and met a number of ethnomusi- 
cologists who seemed to be on a broader track than those 
of the strictly armchair variety. I had known Herzog for 
a long time. He, too, was an armchair type, although he 
did some collecting himself. 

I feel that I must put in the story of Herzog going 
off on a collecting tour, just put it on for the record. 
I don't know if it's told anyvihere else. Herzog went out 
to collect from some Indian tribe and got off the train 
at the station where he was met by the proper people, and 
the mode of transportation was horse. So Herzog mounted 
the horse with some difficulty and was promptly thrown. 
As he picked himself up and dusted himself off, he re- 
marked rather ruefully, "You know, that's funny. It's 
the first time I ever got on a horse." And his guide said, 
"Yes. The horse knew it." 

But the general type of study done--as far as I could 
find outj my reading wasn't as extensive as it should have 
been at the time, but it's been more or less confirmed by 
my reading since, and talk with people--was by comparative 
musicologists and ethnomusicologists, as they began to be 


called, who looked at music from the outside as speakers us- 
ing one art, language, to deal with another, music. And 
Mantle Hood's book was the first one that I had run across, 
even an article, the first article, I would say, too, that 
knew the music as a musician. This fell in line v/ith my 
old philosophy that I had developed in Berkeley in 1915, 
1916, 1917 5 1918, that the speech approach to music was 
only one-half of the business. The other half of the busi- 
ness, of the comparative musicologist or ethnomusicologist, 
was the knowledge of music in its own terms, and the only 
way you could know music in its own terras is by making it. 
Listening to it was still something that had to be repor- 
ted in terras of language, and if you were going to v;rite 
about making it, you still had to present it in terms of 
language, but the presentation was entirely different be- 
cause it was a different kind of knowledge. It wasn't music 
as you heard it, but rausic as you made it. And I had been 
emphasizing that for years, and have since, and it struck 
me that this book was quite remarkable. Well, I didn't 
know where Mantle Hood was. I wrote hira an enthusiastic 
letter of appreciation and presently I had a telephone 
call or letter frora Mantle Hood, who turned out to be at 
the University of California, Los Angeles. And he came 
up to see me. By that time I had my Model A Melograph 


functioning, and we had a wonderful session. 

Later on he and I got together with Kunst. Kunst 
I never quite connected with. We always seemed very much 
like two trains passing on two different tracks. We knew 
that each one was passing, but we didn't really make a 
person-to-person connection. He came up to Santa Barbara 
and visited me there. I remember going out for a walk 
with him up the foothill up to where the steep hills be- 
gan. He was a wonderful person, and 1 enjoyed being with 
him tremendously. But there was a feeling that we never 
would understand each other until we'd spent quite a lot 
of time together, and, of course, we didn't have that 
chance. My terminology was entirely different from his. 
My method of conversation was entirely different. And 
Hood and I could almost communicate without talk a good 
deal of the time, because our talk ran along such similar 
verbiage and such similar methods of arranging the ver- 
biage. But Kunst had a different vocabulary and an entire- 
ly different way of using it. It was a generation older 
than Hood's, and while he was a younger man than I, he 
was a generation or two back of me from the point of view 
of his approach to music. This clearly shows in his 
definition of ethnomusicology, that it's the music of the 
world excepting the fine art of European music. He did 


include European folk music. I've forgotten whether he 
ever mentioned popular music. Did he? I don't remember. 
BRIEGLEB: I think he did. 

SEEGER: I think he did. But in talking with him, it was 
not a factor. That was in advance of the average ethno- 
musicologist, who really was not very much interested in 
folk music. Bartok was still then--in spite of the fact 
that he and Hornbostel were devoted friends--v;as still 
not regarded seriously, as I could see, by ethnomusicolo- 
gists. When we founded the American Society for Compara- 
tive Musicology in I932 or i933--iive forgotten which— I 
don't remember there being any mention of Bartok. I didn't 
know he was a folklorist at that time. I didn't know him 
as an ethnomusicologist . When his book came out on Hun- 
garian folk music, I think it was--I don't remember the 
date--but I didn't get hold of it until long after I think 
it was published in English. It made a great impression 
on me, but the appreciation of Bartok really came when 
it came to the Serbo-Croatian folk songs. And, of course, 
now he's considered one of the great ethnomusicologists. 
But he ran along parallel to the Hornbostel school, if I 
can call it a school--yes, it really was--more or less 
parallel. I suppose they influenced each other. But 
Bartok was a man who went off and lived with the people. 


I wouldn't be surprised that if the occasion had ever 
come up he could have joined in with the singing and 
maybe with the playing. I don't know. I must find out 
sometime whether he ever became expert on any of the 
Balkan instruments. That would be an interesting thing 
to know. His son would know, I'm sure. 

BRIEGLEB: His transcriptions certainly show that he was 

SEEGER: I think he was involved in the making of music, 
which Hornbostel never was, and [George] Herzog never 
was. They would have considered it a loss of objectivity. 
And it might be, because Bartok was very sensitive to 
that loss of objectivity. Well, take the simple question 
of folk song. He doesn't speak of the technique of the 
gusla. And yet the gusla was accompanying much of the 
music he's interested in. I don't know whether it ever 
accompanied the women's song, but certainly they accom- 
panied many of the others. And also there are other in- 
struments, of course. 

Well, now, this leads us up to my meeting with Mantle 
Hood. At the same time, I had known Wayland [D.] Hand 
in the Folklore and Mythology Center for a number of yearsj 
and as I remember, my first connection with UCLA was being 
invited to serve as research associate, I think it was, of 


the Center of Mythology and Folklore, which I accepted 
gratefully. It was a purely honorary position without 
any job or remuneration. I've forgotten how many times 
I saw Mantle Hood between--oh, I think it was 1957 or so, 
maybe 1958. 

BRIEGLEB: He went to Indonesia in 1957. 
SEEGER: Well, I saw him before then and afterwards. 
And as my marriage in Santa Barbara gradually showed signs 
of finally breaking up, the date of January 1, I96O be- 
came important. I went East to see my children and my 
sister, and we drove West--oh, I think it was along in 
December 1959--a-nd arrived here about early January, I96O, 
when my appointment came through as research musicologist 
in the newly founded Institute of Ethnomusicology. I had 
a nice office on the ground floor in the basement. Room 
426, is it? 

SEEGER: And I had a desk and bookcase and file cabinet 
and so forth and a lot of space. But things were crowded, 
and besides the Melograph we had to have some play-offs, 
and there were some recording instruments recording in 
the two instrumental rooms that the windows abutted into. 
So I started to come in every morning and do my writing 
at the desk and to build up my bookshelves with the special 


books that I needed and didn't want to go chasing off to 
the library for every other minute. I think I filled 
the present bookcases with my books and materials and 
was beginning to overflow onto other places , needing a 
table and so forth and so on. But the electronic equip- 
ment began to increase also. And the traffic in and out 
of the room began to Increase, and finally I had to do 
my work with a steady barrage of excitement and talk go- 
ing on with recording and testing and all kinds of things, 
so that I found myself doing more and more work at home 
and coming in for fewer and fewer hours. To make a long 
matter short, the room finally became so chock-full of 
electronic equipment and such hectic activity that I was 
squeezed off into a chair, hardly able to keep a pen on 
paper without it getting jiggled. So I went to Mantle 
and suggested that I couldn't work there anymore. [laugh- 
ter] But I'd keep a desk for appointments and conferences 
with students and so forth, and we could actually clear 
out the room and hold a seminar there for a few students. 
Well, to make a long matter short, as I said, I finally 
just got out of the room, and the desk eventually went to 
give place to the equipment. 

When the Model B [Melograph] came along. Model A 
had practically given out, and we returned it to San Diego 


with the idea that if anybody wanted to take it over and 
paid a small amount--! think it was $350 to rebuild it-- 
I'd be glad to give it to them. When it came to giving 
away the additional filter I had, there were complaints 
that it was turning out to be useful in the laboratory, 
so I Just sent the main Model A and its little recorder 
back to be kept in San Diego until somebody came along. 
Recently some people did from V/esleyan [University] and 
I understand they paid to have it rebuilt and it was sent 
to them. I haven't been able to find out what they've 
done with it. I think Bob Brown was the man who via.s ac- 
tive in that. At any rate, they got about $1,000 equip- 
ment for $350 repairs or remodeling, so that was that. 

Model B worked very well. It was much easier to work 
with than Model A, but still something of a flirt, I would 
say, a kind of an electronic musicological flirt. You 
couldn't tell when it was going to go sour on you. But it 
did some very nice work and results were published, two 
papers of mine and I think one or two of Dr. Hood's. I 
don't know anybody else that used it. But it did very nice 
work. And I have almost always felt it could have been 
more used than it was for publication. 

The work of the institute became more and more absorb- 
ing. Mantle Hood's seminar in ethnomusicology became — I 


don't mind saying at my suggestion, because I think he 
never would have done such a thing himself, and I should 
probably take the weight of responsibility off his shoul- 
ders--became an institute-wide seminar that everybody was 
supposed to take for credit the first year and attend 
thereafter up to the time where they might have to be 
excused because they had too many other commitments. The 
result is that it's become, as far as I can see, more or 
less the hub of the activity in the institute, where the 
new ideas are presented and where a lot of the thinking 
is done and where the students are encouraged to get 
together as a whole and not merely as members of certain 
courses and seminars. 

From my point of viev;, it's worked beautifully. The 
best years were when the participating members of the 
staff were largest: Leon Knopoff, Bill [William R.] 
Hutchinson and Klaus Wachsmann. Occasional others v/ho 
came in were Bill [William 0.] Bright, the linguist. 
Those were the most exciting years. Unfortunately, be- 
sides myself, most of the others have become involved in 
too much outside work and haven't been coming in regu- 
larly. New members of the staff have, however, come in, 
but not as many as in those two or three years--! 've for- 
gotten what they were--along in I966, '67; and they began 


to take off in I968. When did Wachsmaxin leave? 
BRIEGLEB: I think, in I968. 

SEEGER: He must have left in the fall of I968? Yes. 
Well, one of the most rewarding experiences was the year 
that Mantle Hood was on a sabbatical, which was I966 and 
1967 5 when Klaus Wachsmann took over the seminar and con- 
ducted it in an entirely different v?ay, of course, because 
he's an entirely different kind of person. He was in ill 
health and from about November on making up his mind to 
make the change from UCLA to Northwestern. And it prac- 
tically led him to a breakdown, psychologically and phy- 
sically, along around the middle of the spring term, so 
that he begged me to take over as much of the seminar as 
I felt like doing. And I, for my own part, often felt it 
necessary to intrude, even though I hadn't done anything • 
special to say, simply because he was exhausted. He was 
a very conscientious man, and he felt that he had to oc- 
cupy the full three hours. After an hour he was sometimes 
near the verge of collapsing, just physically. You could 
see it. His voice trembled, perspiration on his forehead, 
his hands trembled, and he kept trying to find what to 
say after considerable pauses. It was really tragic. So 
that I did quite a lot of the talking, and he would chirp 
up after I'd been going ten or fifteen or twenty minutes. 


then he'd carry on until he wore himself out again. 

It was my custom to always go home with him after- 
wards to his little house on [II356] Albata Street for 
a drink and a resume of the events of the afternoon. I 
don't know which was more exciting, the events of the 
afternoon or the resume, because by the time he got a 
gin and tonic and had me settled with a gin and tonic 
and some hors d'oeuvres that his wife Eva would produce, 
he was himself again. And he could last that way for a 
long time. I think sometimes if that gin and tonic ap- 
peared at the seminar, he would have been less dependent 
upon me. But he'd sit back in the chair and say, "Oh, 
Charles, how I thank you for taking over the way you did. 
I don't think I could have gone on another minute." On 
the whole I felt encouraged to chip in, and some of the 
afternoons I took over a good half of the work, and two 
or three, when he was laid up and the doctor told him not 
to get up out of bed, I had to take over the whole seminar. 
And it was great fun. I had never liked to conduct the 
whole thing myself, but taking on pieces was great fun. 
One of the most interesting episodes of that year was a 
visit by Alan Merriam, and this ought to go in because it 
won't be recorded anywhere else, I feel. 

Alan [P.] Merriam, who had just written the Anthropology 


of M usic , was invited down to talk at some kind of a 
meeting at UCLA and the members of the seminar got wind 
of it j so they invited him to come around and give a talk 
under the auspices, I think, of the chapter of the Society 
of Ethnomusicology, which then was more active than it 
is now. (It's gone to sleep this year and last year.) 
He came and gave his talk, and then they invited him out 
to dinner. Were you present at the dinner? 

SEEGER: And Klaus and I were cordially invited. But we 
both said with one voice, "Oh, no, you have Alan all to 
yourselves. We'll keep out. That would cramp matters." 
They got together with Alan, as I understand it, and in 
the course of either his lecture here or that evening, 
he intimated that his approach to musicology, of course, 
was very different from ours, and that our approach was 
through performance, that ethnomusicology was a kind of 
a footnote to the performance program at UCLA. Well, 
Fred Lieberman had provided himself with the reading list 
for the spring semester that Klaus Wachsmann and I had 
made up and we put the volumes on reserve on the shelves 
in the archive, and he presented it to Alan and asked if 
this looked like a basing of ethnomusicology on playing 
the guitar and the big gong. It so happened there were 


only one or two books [laughter] on musicology. One of 
the books was Alan's Anthropology of Music , and some of 
the others were on the psychology of music, or philosophy 
of music, or things of that sort. But others were Ber- 
trand Russell ' s Mysticism and Logic . Did [George V.] 
Plekhanov's Materialist Conception of History get in? 
BRIEGLEB: I don't think so. 

SEEGER: Oh, it should have. Gosh, I'm backsliding. 
That was required reading in my first course in musicol- 
ogy in Berkeley in 1917 and I918. It was required of 
everybody, with a few others as distant from ordinary 
musicology as that. Well, of course, the students were 
delighted, and I understand they pitched into Merriam 
pretty hard, but I'm sure it made no impression whatever. 
It was rolled off his back like water off a duck's. Alan's 
a good man, but he definitely looks at music from the out- 
side and can't conceive that looking at it from the inside 
can see anything. 

Now, let's see, what are we coming to? The plan for 
Model C. This was drawn up, and talking with such people 
as we could find to talk about it with, it seemed as if 
we'd better entrust it to the same people that made Model 
A and Model B in San Diego. 


JUNE 19, 1970 

BRIEGLEB: Who made models A and B? 

SEEGER: The Research Manufacturing Corporation. It was 
a little hut formally organized cooperation of a number of 
electronic technicians who worked in governmental and non- ' 
governmental laboratories in San Diego, led by Victor C. 
Anderson. I had met Anderson, as I think I've said in 
an earlier tape, in Cambridge, when I spent the winter 
there after the death of my wife, Ruth. It's an interest- 
ing instance of serendipity--I had attended a meeting of 
the American Musicological Society in Ann Arbor and on 
the way back to Boston, with a number of others, was unable 
to get sleeping accommodations. So we sat up all night in 
the coach, and in the course of the conversations that I 
had that night there was one xi^ith a man, Charles Spackford, 
who had just taken his Ph.D. at Harvard in an acoustic 
musical subject. And when I told him about--now, this is 
1953j you mind--when I told him my dream of a music writ- 
ing machine, he said, "Why, that's perfectly feasible, and 
the man who might make it for you" (I'd never been able 
to find anybody who'd even design it for less than--well, 
it came down from a million, a couple of million, down 
to thirty-eight hundred, which I still couldn't afford) 


"a man who might make it for you is a man who's considered 
one of the outstanding sound specialists in the country." 
He worked in the super-secret laboratory for the Navy in 
San Diego. And that was Victor C. Anderson. 

I met Anderson, liked him, and we made an arrange- 
ment--oh, he was a visiting professor at Harvard at the 
time--that on his way back to San Diego with his family 
he'd stop in Santa Barbara and we'd sign a little agree- 
ment for him to make the Model A Melograph. He stopped 
and we drew up a contract, and the work began. 

I might say that this Research Manufacturing Corpora- 
tion was simply a little cover for these electronic sound 
experts in San Diego, to amuse themselves on weekends. 
There were two or three of them, and not being able to 
get all their enthusiasm spent from Monday to Friday, they 
would get together on Saturdays and Sundays and make spe- 
cial apparatus, sometimes I think for the government, be- 
cause the government either couldn't be fitted into the 
government schedule or didn't have the tools or the things 
couldn't be made fast enough or something of that sort. I 
saw various sound -recording devices there, deep-sea and 
ventilating and some other things of that sort J and the 
little Model A was built largely on the floor of one of 
the technicians' garages, out of components that could be 


bought in almost any radio store, and just put together 
in odd moments. It cost me $1,000, but the actual writing 
device, the same one that a doctor uses for a cardiogram, 
cost, I think, quite a large part of that. 

I remember once the machine didn't work up in Santa 
Barbara. I took it back to San Diego and Anderson worked 
on it for a morning and finally found a tin can out in 
the backyard that was emptied of its food. He took it to 
a sink and washed it off and cut it and inserted it as 
a--what do they call them, to keep infections [laughter] 
from one electronic unit to another--a shield. And it 
worked. And it was still in when I finally gave up work- 
ing with ito But I found that the filter was quite inade- 
quate, and I bought the extra filter for about $300, so 
the actual cost of the Model A began to mount. 

The first thing I experienced in Santa Barbara was 
trouble with the graph. It had a way of waltzing up and 
down for no reason that I could see. It certainly wasn't 
on the input, and the machine could hardly be said to have 
been guilty of it. So I made some tests with a fixed tone 
at half-hour intervals throughout a day. How did I pro- 
duce that fixed tone? I really don't know. I didn't 
have an oscilloscope. 
BRIEGLEB: You didn't do it with just a tuning fork? 


SEEGER: I might have used a tuning fork. I don't know. 
But that probably wouldn't have lasted long enough. At 
any rate, I got a good single sound. Oh, yes, I had a 
phonograph record for testing turntables, which had an 
A 440 in it; so I concluded it must be the electric cur- 
rent. And I took it down to the electric company in 
Santa Barbara, and he looked at it and said, "Well, what 
is this?" I said, "It's my recording of an A 440 at half- 
hour intervals during a day." He said, "Well, how do you 
make it?" I said, "I have a machine that makes it." 
"Well," he said, "you'll have to show me." So he came 
up. And he said, "Now, we're going to see what we can do 
for you." I said, "I've got to have the most stable cur- 
rent I can get." The lineman came up. The result was 
they put in a new transformer up on the street, which was 
about 100 yards away, a new line into the house, and we 
connected it with a switch in the new switchbox, which led 
underground only to the outlet that I'd plugged the Model 
A into and the tape recorder. 

The improvement was miraculous. But it still fluc- 
tuated more than I liked, so I got a voltage control. And 
with the voltage control and my additional filter, which 
was highly recommended and is really a very good one--I'm 
still using it here--we made some nice records. 


Well, now, when it came to Model B, it cost about 
$3,000, I guess, in all. I don't have to say too much 
about it. It worked very nicely and so promisingly that 
we began to dream of Model C. And Mantle Hood got enough 
money to get a feasibility study made, which cost as much 
as the Model B. Anderson came up with a corps of specialists, 
and we went over the thing down at the Admiralty Club down 
at the airport. 

The result was that we had a feasibility plan for 
Model C that was pretty satisfactory all the way around. 
The problem was $85,000, plus $15,000 for a black box 
to put it on the computer, plus a few other things. Well, 
Mantle and I decided we'd go out and try to find $85,000, 
and since I had known more or less well Jerome [B.] Wiesner, 
who was chairman of the president's National Science Foun- 
dation in Washington, I wrote for an appointment and Mantle 
and I went on. The interesting thing about this adventure 
was that my son Charles was on the Department of Astronomy 
at Stanford at the time, a specialist in radio astronomy. 
And they had a feasibility plan for a $25 million radio 
telescope for which they needed a first prototype unit 
costing $1,500, 000„ So my son Charles Seeger and this 
Charles Seeger both appeared in Washington at about the 
same time to get money from the National Science Foundation. 


Needless to say, we had a very cordial reception, approval 
of our plans, but an explanation that this sort of thing 
Just didn't fall into the scope of the National Science 
Foundation. Wiesner said, "Perhaps the anthropology sec- 
tion might help you, and then there's another section that 
might help you. They're for equipment and that sort of 
thing." We went around to see the anthropologist, a very 
nice man. We showed him the thing and he said, "Oh, this 
is very interesting. It might be also useful in linguistics." 
He saw it, I think, himself. We didn't have to tell him. 
But he said, "My yearly budget's only $85,000." So he 
called up the equipment man and said, "I've got something 
very good here. Could you come around?" So he came around 
and looked at it and said, "Well, I don't know anything 
about things like this, but I can give you a car. [laughter] 
I can even give you some rooms in Washington." 

My son got his $1,500,000, and I might say, by v;ay of 
footnote, that after they spent the $1,500,000 the govern- 
ment decided to give up the telescope. Oh, dear, [laughter] 
So we came back pretty much defeated. I don't know whether 
Dr. Hood will ever tell the story, but I'd like to know it 
more in detail, myself. But presently I had a word from him 
that as of June 30 of some year--I've forgotten what year 
it was, 1962, 1963--there were some unexpected funds in the 


budget that would revert to the general fund if it weren't 
spent for something, [laughter] Mantle lassoed it for the 
Model C. How a musicologist could keep his eye out for 
something like that, I can't see. You really have to look 
for a needle in a haystack in a thing like UCLA to find 
$85,000 loose all of a sudden. When you think that there 
are probably a couple hundred men who might also have found 
it, and some of them before us. But none of them did, 
fortunately, for us. So the contract was signed and every- 
thing went along very well. 

But there were too many cooks in this broth. And 
there were some changes made in Model C. One from a de- 
vice that would give us a line for a melody. Instead of 
giving us a line, it was decided, because it would be so 
much better from a computer viewpoint, we got a lot of 
dots, 250 a second. Well, I objected, but it was too late. 
Somebody had already decided to go into dots, and I didn't 
have a very strong case because the computer would make a 
better line than a camera would. So I weakly gave in, 
and we got our dots. But the trouble with the dots is 
that half the dots of those 25O are very likely to be off 
the graph. The machine is so precise that it will throw 
a 0.004 of a second where it belongs, and it's very often 
off the graph, where it should be. But from the point of 


view of visibility, it reduces us to a second about two 
inches long on our best prints, with only a hundred points, 
and it doesn't give you a line. 

We weren't very happy with the tapes we took down to 
have graphs made in San Diego. On the one hand, there was 
a reduction of the film from 35mm to l6. Why? Because 
it was cheaper. Well, we innocently enough said, "That's 
fine with us, we don't want it to be too expensive." But 
they didn't tell us that prints were ten times more expen- 
sive, and you couldn't find people who'd make prints very 
easily. Well, we went down and the results were just no 
good. Meanwhile, we'd given them the $85,000 and the 
machine v;as not working. Well, we made any number of trips 
down there and there was no improvement. Finally it was 
discovered that the concrete realization of the engineering 
design didn't work in one of the filter mechanisms, and 
they were honest enough to admit it. I think Anderson is 
a very fine man, and not many people would have done it. 
But they put their own $30,000 into rebuilding this whole 
filter system, so the machine has actually cost much more 
than $85,000. It nearly bankrupted the firm, but then it 
began to appear that we'd get some kind of a display, that 
it v;as somewhat like what we wanted. Well, this meant 
that we'd gone through year after year not being satisfied 


with the machine; It was just standing down there in their 
laboratory not being used, and they said they couldn't do 
any more with it. We finally said, "We might as well have 
it up here and see if we can't do better up here with the 
input than they could with it." We got it up here and 
from my viewpoint it was a dismal failure, just a washout. 
BRIEGLEB: That was when, I968? 

SEEGER: I think it was the fall of I968, just before the 
SEM meeting. When we got it here and Michael Moore hitched 
it up to the input, we began to get an entirely different 
class of material. Also we had better prints. The prints 
that we got from San Diego didn't amount to a pin. But 
the prints we were getting here, although they were fright- 
fully costly, were within the range of acceptability. 

One thing after another went wrong with this machine. 
Anderson would be coming up or one of his technicians would 
be coming up every week or so to correct faults. Gradually 
the bugs got out of the machine, and while they still oc- 
casionally flit in, Michael has learned to make the repairs 
himself and I would say that the machine is not as bad as 
I feared it would be, but not as good as I hoped it would 
be. We're using it, however, only to half its efficiency. 
We only get out of the Model C, as of this date, June I9, 
1970, the tonal display. It gives us a rather poor pitch 


and excellent dynamics, which goes off the chart every now 
and then and nobody seems to see how it can be kept on the 
chart, and quite a surprising spectrum. I might say about 
the spectrum here: that it was supposed to be in the con- 
tract from two to five times better than conventional visi- 
ble speech on a sonograph. But it isn't as good^ that's 
the trouble. At least, it doesn't seem to be so clear, 
although we're learning to read it so that perhaps when we 
get around to making a comparison betv;een the latest sono- 
graph and the latest work that we've done with Model C 
we might be able to find out which is the better. 

Well, here we are able to make a stab at the pitch 
line and get a pretty good loudness line and a better-than- 
we-expected spectrum line, but nothing about rhythm. And 
as any musicologist ought to know, but most of them don't, 
music is just as much a matter of rhythm as it is tone. 
They're all so daffy about tone that they get down to 
measuring 0.001 of a tone and they don't bother about even 
0.1 of a second of rhythm. In fact, they don't even know 
what the factors of rhythm are. You could practically go 
to any musicologist in this building and ask him, "What 
are the necessary factors of musical rhythm?" They couldn't 
tell you. 

Now, it's essential to us at this juncture to get 


Model C into a computer. My plan for Model D will be 
hamstrung until V7e can do that^ or else I've got to go 
ahead on a plan for Model D simply saying^ "I think that 
Model C can do this but I don't know," and they say, "Well, 
why don't you know?" I say, "Because we don't have $15,000 
and I don't know where we're going to get $15,000 and nei- 
ther does Mantle." There is a general retraction of funds 
for universities, not only from the government, but from 
private foundations. And unless some angel comes along 
here and gives us it, I don't see any chance of going any- 
where and saying anything else. My plan for Model D — if 
we can't get the results from Model C, though we seem to 
be able to, and even if we can, I want probably better 
results than we get from it--is to get in touch with my 
five or six principal contacts in Europe, at Norway, Swe- 
den, Paris, Bratislava, Israel, and a possible one in Ber- 
lin, and suggest that if they would join me on an inter- 
national commission for the designing of a Model D, I think 
that I could go to an American foundation and get enough 
money to bring us all together at some convenient and least 
expensive spot. We would meet there and lay down our spe- 
cifications as of 1970, in the company of such electronic 
experts as we could wangle the presence of from the United 
States and from Europe, the best we can find. 


I have an idea that a Model D, with its own computer 
huilt into it so that you wouldn't have to pay the tsoc 
for going to the big computer, could be built at perhaps 
half the size of our present Model C. The cost might be 
$400,000 or $500,000. I don't know. It might be less. 
I can't tell. I'm sure we could get the blessing of in- 
ternational musicological societies and national ones. 
I'm sure they would give us letters of approval, and I 
think we could get the backing of the American Council of 
Learned Societies, and it wouldn't be a very great amount. 
It would simply be travel and per diem for a dozen people, 
or what I would hope, about sixteen. And we could probab- 
ly find a place to meet where we wouldn't have to pay for 
the actual use of the rooms. It might be Paris. It might 
be someplace in Germany--to bring people up from Israel 
and Sweden, you see, and over from Bratislava and from 
the United States. It wouldn't come to a very great amount, 
Most expensive would be the people from the United States. 
That would be the first step. The task of this first meet- 
ing would be to draw up a feasibility study with the help 
of the electronic engineers that could then be submitted 
to a foundation for a larger sum to actually build the 
thing. And I'd build two, at least--one for Europe and 
one for America. The thing could be placed in Europe where 


they would agree to place it. They could even pack it up 
and move It from one place to another^ if they wanted^ or 
they could make more than one. Once you make the first of 
these machines, the second and third copies are not only 
much less expensive, hut perhaps even better, because you've 
taken some of the bugs out of the first ones. But I would 
build two so that we'd have the "debugging" of both the 
Europeans' and Americans' [machines]. 

Well, that's my job for the next few months before 
Mantle goes off on his sabbatical in January. We must de- 
cide just how we're going to handle this proposition. V/e 
can't let it simply rest here with this very promising 
machine next door unable even to do fifty percent of its 
efficiency. The matter of the rhythm I think is going to 
be simpler than the pitch, because it's more in the realm 
of what we know than what we sense. The tonal end of the 
Melographic technique, if you want to call it that, is 
in two sections. One is the sensory, which takes care of 
the tone, and the other is in the cognitive, which takes 
care of the rhythm. We know rhythm cognitively. V/e know 
pitch and loudness and tone quality sensorily. 

Now, besides the Melograph, my other job is to get 
my collected papers together for which I have a long-stand- 
ing contract with the University of California Press. I 


was supposed to have it finished two years ago, and I 
rather hope I might do it in the foreseeable future. 
BRIEGLEB: What will you call it? 

SEEGER; It will be called Systematic Musicology , and it 
will have two kinds of papers. About the first half will 
be theoretical papers, and the second half will be applied 
papers. The applied papers will mostly be in sociological 
and folklore terms. My first idea v/as simply to publish 
the papers as they were originally published, as we pub- 
lished them, streamlining the technical verbiage. As I 
came to look at them, I felt to myself, "I just can't let 
them out, most of them. They've got to be something more 
than streamlined verbiage." Several of them have to be 
rewritten, and that's what's holding me up. Also there's 
a question of whether I might have an appendix simply 
publishing, unaltered, a paper that I wrote in I923 about 
the music department in the American university, which I 
claimed then — and this paper was written in I919 and I920, 
when I was on sabbatical — that the music departments in 
universities in the United States should be called depart- 
ments of music and musicology. Meanwhile, remember at 
that time musicology wasn't accepted as a term. And I 
also specified in a brief sentence that of course the 
musics of other parts of the world than Europe should be 


Included, and I think that's the first time it was ever 
suggested in the United States that the field of ethno- 
musicology should be included in academic v/ork under the 
music department. Waldo Selden Pratt had written only a 
few years before, in I915, in the first number, in fact, 
the lead article of the Musical Quarterly, that talk of 
music and ethnology was nonsense. So in this volume of 
collected papers, the first twelve or so are mostly being 
rewritten. The last twelve are mostly being left as is. 
I'll get it done some time. But delay on it only puts me 
off writing the volume that I planned in I916-I7, Principia 
Musicologlca , which would serve for musicology as Newton's 
Principia served for physics and Russell's and Whitehead's 
for philosophy and mathematics. And that's something I 
must get to work on pretty soon. 

Now, is there anything else you can think of that I've 
left off about the institute? 

BRIEGLEB: I don't think so. You came in I96O, then. 
SEEGER: Yes. The quality of the work done, the capa- 
bilities of the students that are attracted has risen by 
hundreds of percent year after year. 

BRIEGLEB: Do you feel that the practical approach is over- 
powering the theoretical approach? 
SEEGER: I feel that the theoretical approach without the 


practical is misleading. We've done too much damn studying 
of music as something you listen to. Music is primarily 
something you make. Now, if you listen to it, that's fine. 
I'm all for listening. That's very nice. But it's the 
making of it that's the important thing. And we're just 
getting around now to techniques by which we can study mak- 
ing. Over in the brain research laboratory there, they're 
putting electrodes on the people who are listening to music. 
I want to have them come around here and put them on people 
v/ho are playing music. I'd be willing to bet that they'd 
discover some musicologically astonishing things if they 
would put twelve electrodes on the four members of our 
little gamelan--Mantle Hood, Gertrude Robinson, Hardja 
Susillo, and Max Harrell. I think if we could make four 
graphs of those people you'd find out more about music than 
has ever been found out before--that is, from the point of 
view of what music from the most comprehensive viewpoint 
means. If anybody thinks that a hearer of music hears what 
the player makes, they can Just go and soak their head. 
It gets completely transformed by the medium of the instru- 
ment, the air, and the listener's ear. I sometimes wonder 
whether people hear what music the music maker's making. 
I think they'd find out some astonishing things, epic- 


I divide the history of ethnomusicology in two main 
epochs. One is from the earliest gestures of [Charles 
Russell] Day and--oh, I'm so bad at remembering names, 
that man who wrote the book on Japan?--F. T. Piggott, [J. 
A.] Van Aalst and some of the others, up to the time v;hen 
the institute was founded. And I think a second epoch 
begins with the study of musics of the world by people 
who not only are trained to talk about them, but to make 
them. Now, we don't suppose for one minute that any per- 
son who acquires some competence in a tradition of music 
that he wasn' t brought up with--from the time he was a few hours 
old and hits sometime around when he's six, eight, nine, 
ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, on up to his twen- 
ties, thirties, or fortles--we don't pretend anybody who 
learns a second music ever learns it the way he learned 
his first music. But around this place they've gotten so 
good that makers of other musics than our own will accept 
them into a group performance with a certain amount of 
sangfroid. It's going to be very interesting to see how 
Gertrude comes out when she goes back to Java. She's so 
good on the gender, and for all I know, on some of the 
other Javanese instruments, I wouldn't be surprised they'd 
give her some commendation. Of course, they'd give it to 
Mantle Hood. He's got that documented. And we have at 


least the say-so. I don't know whether they've been put 
into print, from some Javanese, that our performing groups 
do better than some Javanese performing groups, not the 
very good ones, of course, but at least the rank and file, 
which is all that I would need to bolster up my claim that 
ethnomusicology is entering a second epoch. I wouldn't 
expect a man making his second music the way he could make 
his first music. I'm not asking for that. Maybe they can. 
I don't know. I've never seen it. There is a man in south 
India who's singing around a good deal now--Jon Higgins, an 
American, who sings to Indians in their ovm music. And 
they say he's good. Experts say, of course, "¥e see the 
difference. He doesn't get everything." But he got so 
much that it's really quite miraculous. New, that can un- 
doubtedly be done. We have Japanese musicians who've done 
pretty well with Western music. We've got Africans who do 
pretty wello We've got Turks who do pretty v/ell. I could 
probably think of more [who have done well] with Western 
music. We all know that they're not up to the best. Wes- 
terners playing Western music, and it would look, except 
in cases of a miracle or fantastic genius, that we won't 
have performers of second musics equal to performance of 
first musics. But they can come so damn near that most of 
us couldn't tell the difference. But the main thing is to 


attain a rank-and-file level. That's all I would ask of 
a musicologist. I wouldn't ask an American or European 
musicologist to be a Heifetz or a Caruso. That's silly. 
All we want is to have the Western musicologist be a de- 
cent rank-and-file performer in his own art, both as a 
performer and composer. I'd expect any person v;ho is go- 
ing to win his spurs in Western musicology would be able 
to sit down and write a respectable composition in some 

BRIEGLEB: I'm afraid it's not true, however. 
SEEGER: I'm afraid it's not true. I'm afraid they're 
turning out a lot of musicologists here who couldn't write 
a hymn tune. They could harmonize one that's given to 
them. Oh, yes, they might even be able to write it down 
at dictation, all four parts, but whether they could sit 
down and write a respectable hymn tune, that's a different 
matter. But I'd expect them to be able to do it, and I'd 
expect any non-Westerner who's going to study the ethno- 
musicology of European music to be able to sit down and 
write a good hymn tune or a good gospel tune, or respec- 
table ballad tune, as well as sing it reasonably well, 
that is, not too far off pitch, because we have to remem- 
ber that we never sing in pitch ourselves so we can't ex- 
pect them to sing in pitch--in tune, I mean. 


Well, that more or less sums up my feelings about 
the institute. I wouldn't have missed these ten years 
for anything, and it has "been something--which I might say 
here--of a bonus on life for me, to have started off my 
career in a university, made myself unacceptable to any 
other university except for occasional visiting profes- 
sorships and that sort of thing, and then wind up v;ith a 
respectable academic position in my last ten years of pro- 
fessional employment. 
BRIEGLEB: You go the full circle. 

SEEGER: It's rather nice. When I was elected president 
of the American Musicological Society, one of the old 
standbys said to another--and this v/as reported to me on 
very good authority--"Well, Lord knows what's going to 
happen to the society now, with Seeger." They were really, 
some of them, trembling in their boots. They didn't know 
what I was going to do to the poor thing, in spite of the 
fact that I got it started for them. Ye Gods, they wouldn't 
have started for another five years if I hadn't sort of 
made an issue of it. 

As a matter of fact, in 1935, it began to look as if 
the New York Musicological Society might become the na- 
tional society. And I don't know but what [Harold] Spi- 
vacke, when he went around and did the actual spadevrork 


forming the AMS, might have threatened them with that. 
And he said, "You knov/, the New York Musicological So- 
ciety is interested in systematic musicology, and it 
thinks that historical musicology should take a second 
place." And he said, "If you don't get in on this thing 
right away, Seeger may put you in a very bad situation." 
There were not many music historians then. There was 
only one in the university, I think. No. Dickinson 
was in, but he wasn't put here as a musicologist. In 
1935 I don't think there were — I'll have to look it up 
sometime and see if there were any other people in uni- 
versities employed as musicologists except [Otto] Kin- 
keldey. They were doing musicological work but they 
weren't employed as musicologists. In fact, in the 
first organizational meeting of AMS they didn't want 
to call it the Musicological Society. They wanted to 
call it the American Society for Musical Research. But 
they put me on the constitution committee, and I hap- 
pened to be the secretary, and I just managed to make 
it the American Musicological Society. Everybody let 
it go at that. That's the way you do things. 
BRIEGLEB: I think the tape is almost run out. 
SEEGER: Well then, this runs out, and I make profound 
apologies to anybody who reads this for the first seven 


tapes, which had some good stuff in them, but a lot of 
nonsense and a lot of stuff that I would contradict if 
I were redoing it. 


JUNE 18^ 1971 

BRIEGLEB: Dr. Seeger, you had some rather strong reactions 
to the Seattle, Society for Ethnomusicology ' s annual meeting 
in the fall of last year, 1970. How do you feel about this 
meeting now? 

SEEGER: As I remember my strong reactions mostly concerned 
the naivete, childishness, and ignorance of the people v;ho 
were officers of the society for putting a man who was not 
a member of the society on a committee having to do with 
the new directions for the society, and then having him 
chair a session of the general meeting with nobody informed 
that he v/asn't a member of the society. Well, it's very 
nice to have somebody from outside tell you what's what 
but not if everybody thinks he's inside. As a matter of 
fact, [Ken] Mclntyre is the man from Wesleyan, and I think 
he's a delightful chap. We got along beautifully, but the 
proceedings were impossibly irregular and childish. The 
Nev; Directions Committee never should have been voted on 
by the executive board as a matter of the Council, but 
nobody had read the constitution seriously enough to find 
out that fact. It's the Council that's in charge of de- 
ciding vjhat the old directions were, what the present 


directions are, and what any new directions will be. And 
if it wants to appoint a special committee to report on 
a study of new directions, it's the Council's business to 
appoint it, and it's the business of that committee to 
report to the Council, not to the executive board v;hich 
is nothing but the executive committee of the Council, 
and much less to the general meeting. A great many people 
were very much disturbed with the thing. They weren't 
concerned with it, and they really wondered whether the 
society was a bunch of lunatics or v^at it was. 

I've forgotten whether I referred to the fact that 
when I finally made a substitute motion to a motion that 
was on the floor, and my substitute motion passed, they 
all began to reconsider the main motion. When I objected 
that the passing of a substitute motion obliterated the 
original motion, they spent their time looking through 
Robert's Rules of Order without knowing where to look. 
The whole business was just simply childish. The people 
didn't know what they're doing. 

Well, that was one thing. Another thing I didn't 
like was making the students who were going to read papers 
either be present or not have their papers read. That's 
a perfectly good rule for professional members who have 
regular positions, but it's too much to ask students to 


do that. I wasn't a member of the Council that year (we 
all go off every few years) and so I didn't have time to 
intercede. I didn't know about it, in fact. But I'm going 
to make a motion at the next meeting of the Council in 
Chapel Hill that we just strike out that requirement and 
allow a student's paper to be read by another student, pre- 
ferably another student rather than a teacher. I have on 
former occasions read papers by absent members, and I don't 
care much for the procedure because discussion is not 
possible. It's possible, yes, but people don't seem to 
want to unlimber themselves. I read a paper of Manfred 
[F.] Bukofzer once at some meeting--I' ve forgotten what it 
was--and nobody wanted to comment on it. If the comments 
had been favorable it wouldn't have amounted perhaps to 
much of anything, but if they had been unfavorable it would 
have been, I think, very unethical to make. . . (He was 
ill, and that's why he couldn't come.) So it's a ticklish 
point, and I would rather stand by the regulation that 
members must be present and read their papers and be ready 
for discussion, whereas I think it's too much to ask 
students. - 

BRIEGLEB: There apparently had been no precedent before, 
because, as I understand, a chairman of that particular 
session just made an arbitrary decision that a student 


paper could not be read by another person. There had 
been no precedent, nothing to go on. It was only the 
decision of the moment. 

SEEGER: Who was chairman of that meeting? 
BRIEGLEB: McAllester, David McAllester. 

SEEGER: McAllester. God bless David, he loves everybody; 
and rules and regulations are nothing to him. Most of 
the members of the society are bored to death with the 
organizational side of the society, but it • s a necessary 
thing. It falls in with my old schoolboy dictum that 
I've never retracted, that government is a necessary good 
but it's an unavoidable evil. And you have to take it 
or leave it and make the best you can out of those two-- 
the Scylla and Charybdis--if you can steer between them 
you're fortunate. But the society's well organized now 
and at each meeting the papers are better, and there are 
more intelligent discussion and things do go better in 
spite of this inability to organize things properly from 
the point of view of procedure. 

The thing that I remember about the meeting was the 
rather nondescript first session on music in universal 
perspectives. As far as the content one went, it wasn't 
much but it engendered a very nice feeling I thought. 
And from my viewpoint and a number of other people that 


I spoke to, it was a good beginning. It made everybody 
feel happy, and they were going to have a good time. 

Well, the other thing that I remember v;as the trip 
down the bay in the ferryboat sitting out in the cold 
with about four or five others. And Nick England had 
fortunately brought a bottle of Scotch and a pail of ice 
cubes and swiped some blankets from the hotel. I don't 
remember whether I told this on the preceding tape. Did 
I? And as it got colder and colder we all huddled up 
next to each other with the blankets all around us and 
the conviviality was something I'll never forget. I sup- 
pose it could happen at any kind of a meeting, but it's 
very prone to happen at music meetings when people get over 
the formalities. 

I find that the association of the people outside of 
the meetings is the most valuable thing. I remember go- 
ing to Utrecht to the International Musicological Society in 
1952, and [Albert] Smijers was handling everything in a very 
rigid organizational way, and there was a nasty rebellion 
in the general business meeting when they had to unseat 
Jeppesen. You weren't there were you, Ann? Oh, it was 
a nasty business. Jeppesen had just held on all through 
the war and those years afterwards, and the Americans 
finally revolted. And Bukofzer and [Paul Henry] Lang 


and one other German-American joined in, and they made a 
frontal attack. It was brutal. The whole thing was rigid 
and tense, but when they got together in a good restaurant 
with a little something to drink and good food, everything 
just went perfectly beautifully. So that, I think, is one 
of the things we should cultivate more and more at the 
meetings of the society. 

The meetings down in the bar were absolutely hectic. 
We were cramped in so tight there that we could hardly 
raise a cup or a glass to our lips. And I don't know 
how the waiters ever got paid for what they served. I 
happened to remember my waiter and told him what I'd or- 
dered. He didn't really know; so I just paid for what 
I'd ordered. I spent a whole hour trying to make out what 
one man was saying and it just didn't make any sense at 
all. But when I saw him dance that evening with a girl-- 
I think I told this story. 

SEEGER: Well, this young man--I think he's from Puerto 
Rico--he couldn't put his thoughts into words at all. 
His thoughts could have been musically and certainly were 
choreographic but didn't make any sense. But he and the 
girl danced a pas _de deux , well, a flirtation dance, where 
the man is aggressive for a while and the woman recedes 


and then the woman would turn the table and he would re- 
cede. And they did perfectly beautifully. I v;ent up to 
him afterwards and put my arm around him and said, "You 
know I didn't understand a word that you said last night, 
but I understand very well what you dance." And he was 
delighted; so we parted on good terms. 

I was disappointed that Klaus Wachsmann wasn't feeling 
very well and had to sort of shut himself up, but a number 
of people had very good sessions with him and 1 did too. 
BRIEGLEB: I think it's important that these informal ses- 
sions not be planned as part of a program. They have to 
have an almost spontaneous thing. 

SEEGER: No, we should cultivate them, and I don't know 
but what in some of the words that I will have to say at 
the Council meeting on Chapel Hill on this very subject 
that [I should] urge the councils to get out and corral 
people of sympathetic mind and have a good time. Petran 
was up there, but he's not a member of the society. He 
didn't come to the meeting. Oh, is he a member of the 
society? Perhaps he is, but at any rate he didn't come 
to the meetings, but he was in the corridor and saw people. 
No, he wouldn't go to the meetings. He said he got what 
he wanted out of the meeting which was in the corridors. 
A funny man. Yes, there should be more of that. I don't 


know about Chapel Hill. It's going to be very crowded, 
and there isn't much room to go out and have a good time 
unless you walk to a neighboring town. That might be 
difficult, but perhaps they'll have some facilities. 
BRIEGLEB: You know that for the first time a woman is 
running for office of the Society for Ethnomusicology. 
SEEGER: For president? 
BRIEGLEB: Right , for president. 

SEEGER: That's a very good thing. I got a letter from 
Barbara Krader and she said that she considered Nick 
[England] a "shoo-in," But she was very glad to be the 
person who was standing up for the women. And Barbara 
can be president. She'd make a perfectly good president, 
perhaps better than some others. [laughter] She has 
some sense of order and organization. 

BRIEGLEB: She's very organized as a matter of fact, and 
she's had a lot of experience not only with the SEM but 
with the IFMC. 

SEEGER: And she might even get out some of the foreign 
guests to be present the way some of our presidents have 
not done, ask them to speak, and if they can't speak clear- 
ly enough in English, she can translate. 
BRIEGLEB: Sure. VJell, would you like to say something 
about your children? I noticed in listening to the tapes 


that had been done before that you really didn't speak 
too much about how your life and your association with folk 
music and ethnomusicology had influenced them. And maybe 
this has been a reverse influence as well. Perhaps v/hat 
they have done in some way has influenced you. And now 
that you're moving to the East Coast you will be in closer 
contact with more of them. Are you going to ride Pete's 
boat up and down the Hudson to clear up the pollution? 
SEEGER: I'm looking forward to a trip up or down the Hud- 
son in the sloop. I was one of those fathers that took a 
good deal of care of my children. My two oldest boys, 
John and Charles, the radio astronomer and the school 
principal, I didn't see too much of because I was involved 
in the University of California at Berkeley at the time, 
and we had a nurse for the children and their mother and 
I played a good many concerts together, so that I didn't 
see them when they were very little. Pete was born at the 
end of my sabbatical year in the East. The two older boys 
heard music all the time. We didn't play records in the 
house in those days because we didn' t have phonographs in 
the house, and there was no radio. But Peter was born 
towards the end of my sabbatical, and I had retired then 
with the three children and my wife to my father's house 
up in Putnam County, New York, and so I immediately began 


to spend as much time with the children or more than their 
mother did. And Peter, from the time he came back from 
the hospital--lDirths were always handled two weeks in the 
hospital in those days — and from the time Pete came back 
I took at least as much care of him as his mother did for 
several years. And that meant that we had that kind of 
relationship that's very close between a father and a son 
who were acquainted from such an early age on the part of 
the son. I sang a good deal to him, told him stories with 
singing in it, and, of course, he too was brought up with 
the music going on all the time. The professional father 
and the professional mother, however, couldn't handle 
three boys at that time so that they all had to be put in 
boarding school fairly early. Pete went to his first 
boarding school at half past four, and fortunately they 
were pretty good schools so they did well by him. Vaca- 
tions I spent with them, and that meant four months every 
summer with the three boys. So from the time the older 
children were seven and eight and the time Peter was two 
weeks I took them over for summers and practically took 
charge of them. I cooked for them and tended them when 
they were sick and dressed them up in white trousers and 
sailor suits to go up and have dinner with my mother and 
father at stated times c The rest of the time we went around 


pretty much as people do today, in disreputable old 
clothes and as few as possible. In fact, we lived down 
in the barns which I had fixed up for living quarters 
for myself and the boys. And the barns were arranged 
in a beautiful quadrangle. It had formerly been just 
a mud yard, but it had been converted into a lovely lawn. 
We used to go out there and knock a ball up against the wall 
with tennis rackets--and guests would too--without any 
clothes. And after we got well heated up we'd douse 
each other with pails of cold water. So we had very 
good relationships with the boys. 

They all sang. John sang in the Harvard glee club^ 
and Charles has always sung more or less on and off. Peter 
showed up one day with a ukulele and drove us all to dis- 
traction when he was about eleven singing the latest 
songs from Broadway. When he came down to V/ashington 
with a four -string banjo I asked him what he was playing 
that wretched instrument for, and he said, "Well, what 
else is there?" And I told him, "There's a five-string 
banjo, " and if he wanted he could go down — didn't I tell 
this before--he could go down to Asheville with me the 
next day and hear some of the best banjo players in the 
country. So he did and fell in love with the instrument 
and thumbed his way around the country cottoning up to 


anybody he saw carrying a banjo or a guitar and if neces- 
sary, going home and living with them a couple of weeks 
while he learned their technique. 

The younger children I saw much more of. I made a 
point of being with them more than I had been able to v^th 
the older boys, and it's interesting that the three that 
I had most to do with in their early days are the three 
of my seven children who've become musicians. They were 
all offered the piano. None of them took it except Peggy. 
They were all offered the violin. None of them took it. 
Oh no, only the three older boys were offered the violin. 
They heard, the last four--Michael, Peggy, Barbara and 
Penelope--heard folk music going on practically all day 
long in the house that they were in. Their mother v/as 
transcribing records from the Library of Congress. She 
must have done a couple of thousand, and her method of 
transcription was meticulous. She would listen to things 
over and over again. When she was hungry, when she'd just 
had her dinner, when she'd had a cup of coffee, when she 
needed a cup of coffee, when she was distracted, when she 
was peaceful minded, when it was late at night, and when it 
was early in the morning-- [she did all these] to see if 
the transcriptions were the same. I would come home in 
the evening, and I had to look over every transcription 


she made and express my opinion on it. And sometimes I 
would say, "You've written that in the minor and I hear 
it in the major." She said, "Yes, I heard it in the ma- 
jor when I started, but the longer I listen to it, the 
more I think it's in the minor." Well, I listened to 
it some more and I began to think it was in the minor 
too, and so we got down to studying the actual intonations 
a little bit more. By that time I was quite deaf and so 
my judgment was not very trustworthy. But she had a very 
good ear and while it wasn't as good an ear as some of 
the people around the institute here, she could decide 
whether a step was near a major or minor if she listened 
to it long enough, and under these different conditions 
of freshness and tiredness and so forth. Then one night 
I came home and she had to show me something that was 
quite fantastic, she said. At the end of one of George 
Pullen Jackson's recordings, or was it a [John A.] Lomax 
recording? No, I guess it was a Lomax recording. Well, 
I don't know, I think the transcription comes in a Jack- 
son book. At any rate, whatever it was, there was a 
slide. And well, of course, when she came to a slide 
she worked with it as hard as she could up to tempo and 
came to what seemed to be the best way of notating it, 
and then she'd slow it down. She said when she slowed 


it down she had a major scale. "Oh," I said, "impos- 
sible! " She played the scale, and it just sounded like 
a glissando from note up to the octave. She says, "V^ell, 
now listen to it." And by gosh, it sounded to me like 
a scale, but you know perfectly well that not even the 
most agile coloratura soprano could have sung a major 
scale at that speed, so there are some very tricky things 
about this slowing down business. We found a number of 
others, and I drafted a paper at one time warning ethno- 
musicologists about notating slow down. And that's one 
of the reasons why I have been very anxious to get some 
Melographic reports on Bartok's transcriptions of the 
Mllman-Perry recordings from Serbo-Croatia. Because, 
frankly, to my very bad ear Bartok's wrong, but I trust 
Bartok any day over against my ear. Michael and I were 
looking at one of these graphs that the Model C made, 
and the looks of Bartok were pretty good. [laughter] 
But then our trouble here is being able to tell v/hen 
these damn spots, that Model C makes for the pitch line, 
indicate the beginning of what we hear as a note. And 
Michael is quite confident that he knows when a note be- 
gins at that series of spots. But with all due respects 
to Michael, it's hard for me to believe that you can say: 
"We've been judging by the loudness line, and when the 


loudness line went up with a straightedge it's a spot. 
We conclude: that spot has something to do with the 
pitch line. Well, sometimes it's way off and there's 
not another anywhere near it so we disregard it. But 
if there's some others near it, and perhaps nearer the 
pitch line, well then, vie "begin to suspect a slide and 
we try to listen for it because one of the nice things 
about the Melograph is that it teaches you to listen 
for things that the Melograph shows and you haven't 
noticed. But when you watch the graph and listen to 
the input at the same time you can persuade yourself 
that the graph's right. Now I'm not so sure hov; much 
self-deception there is on that, and that fairly rapidly 
gets psychologists in. But I do believe that we could 
put this Model C into a computer. We could get the be- 
ginning of a note pretty faultlessly. We can ask the 
computer to do a whole lot of things that we cannot ask 
the Model C itself to do, for instance, such a thing as 
drawing lines between dots. And it means that we're us- 
ing this Model C to about twenty-five percent efficiency-- 
fifty percent for pitch improvement which means twenty- 
five percent overall and a hundred percent for rhythm 
because rhythm is almost impossible to get off this Model 
C. It doesn't tell you anything about accent; it doesn't 


tell anything about what we call a note. You can puzzle 
it out--Michael can; I can't--with great difficulty. I 
won't say how many hours I spent on working out the rhy- 
thm of the Aunt Molly Jackson transcription that I made 
with Sam Chianis' help for the article in the Selected 
Reports (No. 1). [tape turned off] 

We were talking about the interesting fact that the 
three children that I had most to do with the bringing 
up with from the time they were very little--two weeks 
was about the time they all came back from the hospital 
after they were born--are the ones that had gone into 
music. Peggy turned out to be a very good pianist and 
could have gone on and made her profession of it. She 
went through freshman and sophomore years at Radcliffe 
in harmony and counterpoint and got pretty much disgusted 
with it. But owing to the fact that all three of them 
had heard so much folk music they went in for folk music. 
Peggy heard other things than folk music but not quanti- 
tatively. The folk music drowned everything out so that 
as soon as they got to the point where they could make 
music themselves they were beginning to build a repertory. 
Peggy had, oh^, a half a dozen ballads with all the stsinzas 
by the time she was three. When she was six I made a 
record for Domingo Santa Cruz of Chile with Peggy singing 


twenty-nine children' s songs, American children's songs, 
for a Christmas present for him. She just sang the 
first stanzas to show him what the songs were like, but 
she could go on and sing as many stanzas as you want. 
And all three of them have fantastic memories. I don't 
know what their repertories are, but they're in the 
thousands probably for each of them. But it was the in- 
cessant hearing of it at home, and then from the time 
they were three or four, joining in and singing. The 
four younger ones sang a great deal together, but Peggy 
and Michael sang together publicly by the time they were 
nine or ten. I remember going to pick them up at a house 
where there was a party going on, and when I approached 
the door--it was in summertime--I could hear, "My father 
is a drunkard,/ My mother she is dead." [singing and 
laughter] And so I walked in the door to the vast amuse- 
ment of the audience. 

The thing about children and music is that they're 
pretty much set musically by the time they go to school 
at six. They've got a lot of music in them in the United 
States today. In the old days in the Appalachians they'd 
have nothing but singsong around the house and perhaps 
a relative of the family was a fiddler and perhaps some- 
body played a guitar, but that would be all the music 


they knew. By the time they were six or seven they 
could join in, if not sooner, and if they were a little 
exceptionally interested then they v/ould begin to sing 
and pick up the guitar themselves. They'd even make a 
guitar or a hanjo themselves so that they could accom- 
pany themselves. But in America today there are com- 
paratively few children who don't have a pretty compli- 
cated and full musical education by the time they get 
to be six, just over the radio and the TV, regardless 
of what the rest of the family may do. And that's v;here 
music education just misses the bus, unless they fall 
right in with that kind of music activity, v/hich is most- 
ly a listening activity and not a making activity, and 
teach the children to make the music they have been lis- 
tening to. Unless they do that, they're engaged in a 
remedial task of monumental proportions, trying to per- 
suade the children who are convinced that this is the 
real music, that the music that the teacher wants them 
to make is the real music. And half the time it breeds 

I told the story about going into the union school 
down in Florence, North Carolina, and having the WPA mu- 
sic teacher show off her work for the whole school with 
me. I told that, I think, in another place so I won't 


retell it here. But that's a good indication of what's 
going on in our schools all over the place, and the chil- 
dren just snap their fingers at this-- that is, a great 
number of them do. The actual people who go into the 
advanced music work in high school are about fifteen per- 
cent. And that is neglecting the eighty-five percent 
who get nothing except more of the same that they had 
from the television and the radio and the phonograph. 
The musicality of a culture is not Just listening. I 
think its true register is in the making of it. But of 
course it's too early to have a carefully measured and 
described comparison of, let's say, five thousand people 
who only listened and five thousand people who listened 
and made music. I think we'd find there are some aston- 
ishing differences just in the actual personality. 

A very interesting point came up just now. DickReuss, a 
professor at Wayne [State] University, is reading a paper 
on the life covered by this oral history , and among other 
things, he has run into a case where his subject was active 
under an assumed name. And I thought it might be appro- 
priate to put in here just the mere fact that this paper 
by Professor Richard Reuss will be published eventually and 
anyone who listens to this record, can find reference to 
it. It will probably be in the Journal of American Folklore , 


but I can't be sure that it would be. But it would be 
either in some folklore journal or in a sociological 
journal because he's a professor of anthropology, not 
muslcology, God forbid. Musicologists wouldn't write 
about me. It might get into a musicological paper. I 
don't know. If possible, I'll have put in at the end 
of this oral history just a little note that this paper 
of Reuss' has been published. 

At any rate, my concern with the place of music in 
American society began back with the old Ivn-J days when 
I was in Berkeley, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917. 19l8. I had 
given a lecture at Harvard — and I have referred to it 
in this oral history — in which I had raised the question 
of what was the relation of music to society and posed 
it as a matter of the critique of music. How can I jus- 
tify a life as a composer in what I call the fine art of 
music when it might be that everything I compose would 
just be heard by a very small coterie of dilettantes and 
connoisseurs and when I died would go on to a library 
shelf and become subject for a Ph.D. dissertation? 
How can I justify that in the acceptance of the necessary 
funds for living when the necessary funds for living 
represented the difference for a hundred and twenty-eight 
people between nonsubsistence and a bare subsistence level 


of life in a slum in the United States? Well, I've 
been concerned about this matter of the relationship 
of music to society, not only factually but primarily 

valually." So I was looking, when I was in Berkeley, 
for a way in which I could make music in such a way that 
it would have some perceptible relationship to American 

One of the reasons why I had my more or less general 
psychological crackup in those days was that I just couldn't 
find my way out. I didn't know of the work that was go- 
ing on in Europe, Hanns Eisler and [Stefan] Wolpe and 
my goodness knows how many others v;ho were writing music 
for the socialist movement. I didn't even know the exis- 
tence of the great socialist choruses in Germany which 
were singing Bach's B Minor Mass and the St. Matthev/ 
Passion so beautifully that it defied the efforts of the 
professionals to surpass them. I didn't even know of 
thato So I weathered the doldrums of the twenties, which 
were for me simply retirement from the world, because 
I didn't know what to do, and I didn't have enough wit to 
see what could be done except in the IWW kind of way--a 
pie in the sky and that sort of thing which didn't need 
my ministrations. 

Well about the middle of the winter of I93I and I932 


Henry Cowell asked me if I would come around and address 
a composers' collective, a group of people who were 
interested in writing music for the labor movement, for 
protest marches and union gatherings and that sort of 
thing. "Oh," I said, "I've been waiting for that all 
my life." And I was just discovering George Pullen 
Jackson at the time, and Tom Benton, the painter, was 
showing me commercial records of Doc Boggs and Pete 
Steele and some of the others. So I was primed for 
that, and I went around and gave them a lecture. I 
knew it was Communist sponsored. Well, I didn't care 
whether it was Communist sponsored or Democrat sponsored. 
I would have been rather doubtful if it was Republican 
sponsored, because I'm anywhere from liberal to left to 
extreme left according to who will make use of music in 
the political, economic, social or any other activities. 
I went around knowing that it was Communist sponsored, 
although I was assured that most of the members were 
not Communist. It didn't make much difference to me 
because I was in the Lunarcharski idealistic state. I 
don't know if you know anyone who is listening to this 
tape but in the twenties there was a minister of education 
in the U.S.S.R. named [Anatoli Vasilievich] Lunarcharski 
who was all out for progressive education, the latest 


thing in what they called modern music and painting and 
sculpture and architecture and everything else. They 
were just going to go out and show those capitalist coun- 
tries how behind the times they were. They were going 
to beat us all to avant-gardism. And so we were in more 
or less that state of mind. I knew Bertrand Russell's 
disappointment when he went to Russia, but I was very 
much taken with [Eugene] Debs' enthusiastic support and 
belief in what was happening in Russia. And with Lunar- 
charski's philosophy and his doings in my mind, I would 
have been very glad to cross swords with a Communist any 
place with the idea that after a little formality v;e'd 
decide we really didn't want to fight. We were going to 
shake hands. And I thought that Russia was going to be 
the future salvation of mankind. But I didn't take Marx, 
and I never have, without considerable grains of salt. 

1 gave my paper on the dictatorship of the linguis- 
tic, pointing out how language and how you used it under- 
lay any philosophy or any theory that you could think up 
and express in language. Therefore, Marx should be re- 
vised to meet the criticisms not only of his own dialec- 
tic but of Hegel's and of the whole proposition that you 
could devise a scheme for governing man on the basis of 
language. I said, "You can devise all the schemes you 


wantj but they'll every one of them defeat themselves 
sooner or later." I didn't say, "Now this beautiful 
picture that Russia gives us. . ." You see, this v/as 
1931 and 1932, and they v;ere all still believing in 
Lunarcharski. It was paradise for us in those days 
who were liberal or left-liberal. They would have to 
go back and look at Marx from the viewpoints that had 
accumulated in a hundred years and shown that it wasn't 
a bible; it wasn't the gospel; and it was a mistake to 
make a religion out of Communism. But they v;ent right 
ahead and made a religion out of Communism as everybody 
knows. And Bertrand Russell said--I've forgotten when, 
but I think it was in the twenties--he pointed out that 
Communism was really a religion. I went on and said it 
was simply another branch of the Protestant Christian 
church. It couldn't have happened except in the tradi- 
tion of Christianity. And the slogan that religion was 
the opiate of the people meant that other brands of 
Christianity other than mine are the opiate of the 
people J but mine is the word of God. I told this all 
to the blessed assembly, and they received it very, very 
nicely. The man who I knew was a member of the Communist 
party, and he was the man who was sort of managing this 
little collective--he doesn't live in this country any 


more--said, "Of course that's not what the Communist 
party believes." And I said, "Well, don't tell me. I 
know that, and that's one of the reasons why I speak the 
way I do." Now I've given that lecture. It's never been 
written out, but the nearest thing to it was published 
in that Music Vanguard. I don't know whether you've seen 
it. It was the prolegomenon to all future linguistic 
treatment of music, some title like that. I've given that 
lecture several times to Communist groups. The last time 
was just three or four years ago in London, a very smart 
group there that's run by Ewan McColl. Let me see, there 
must be about twelve in it, and they are all very profi- 
cient singers of the British ballad. The group meets week- 
ly and discusses the relation between music and Maoist 
Communism, and then they go home to their various parts 
of London, which is spread all around where they're drafts- 
men in an architect' s office, an engineer, a secretary, a 
teacher — I don't know, all different people. They all 
have their own center, and they all take the criticism 
of music and the critical use of music with the Marxist 
accent back to their circle and from that these circles 
branch out. 


JUNE 18, 1971 

SEEGER: The point is that although I had given this talk-- 
I can think of now three different occasions of giving 
just about the same talk to the same kind of a group — there 
has never been any comeback. They don't know what to do 
about just the flat statement that the way you talk about 
anything has a great deal to do with what you actually 
mean, and that to try to run the whole of society in terms 
of just one of the means of communication among men, dis- 
regarding music, painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, 
everything else, is bound to collapse after a while be- 
cause it's a philosophy, and no philosopher has ever been 
able to make his system stand against the criticisms of 
his successors, or even sometimes of his contemporaries. 
We've known this now increasingly for three-thousand years, 
and we're still trying to do it. So I throw down the 
gauntlet and nobody picks it up. 

Well, at this time, the early thirties--as anybody 
who's taken the trouble to read through this oral history 
this far would remember--I was active at this time in 
the New York Musico logical Society of which I was chair- 
man and secretary and according to Harold Spivacke, the 
only member on one evening who attended a session--which 


is not true. There were three. And I was president of 
the American Society for Comparative Musicology, which 
was the forerunner of the Society for Ethnomusicology. 
And what was the other one? Oh yes, the American Library 
of Musicology in which we are publishing Joseph Yasser's 
book on A Theory of Evolving Tonality and Helen Roberts' 
book on Form in Primitive Music . So I didn't want that 
activity to get mixed up with this composing activity. 

We picked right up, and I pitched right into the 
collective. I remember one of the nights that made me 
resolve that I'd devote a meeting every week to the col- 
lective. We met every week. My wife, Ruth, and I went 
out one miserable evening to a little Russian restaurant 
on Fourteenth Street--we lived in Greenwich Village then-- 
where we thought we could get something about two o'clock 
or four o'clock in the morning--!' ve forgotten what it 
vras--and it was blizzardy and sleety and miserable, and 
we were having a nice shashlik inside. And in blew about 
seven almost frozen musicians who had been down in front 
of city hall trying to keep a picket line or a protest line 
going there. And I said, "My God, if those people will 
do that I can at least try to do something." So we got 
involved in this collective and it grew. 

I think I told the story of the May Day song, which 


was one by Aaron Copland. He was not a member of the 
collective J but he was a friend. 
BRIEGLEB: You didn't tell it. 

SEEGER: Didn't I tell the story? Are you sure? V/ell, 
it's such a good story that I'll have to tell it present- 
ly. We gathered a group of pretty good musicians, all 
practicing musicians in the town who were trying to write 
music for these purposes. The most successful at the 
moment was Marc Blitzstein whose Cradle VJill Rock was put 
on by the WPA Theatre Project and literally rocked New 
York theater. 

I think I must have told the story of Molly Jackson 
coming in one time, Molly Jackson, the wife of a Kentucky 
coal miner, who was told to go to the borders in Harlan 
County and get out and stay out. She wanted to remain 
alive. She came out, and she came around to the collec- 
tive. She was introduced, I think, by Alan Lomax. He 
was not a member of the collective, but he used to drop 
in occasionally. Well, she sat right around the piano 
where we were all playing the latest contributions the 
first day. Then the next day she sat off at a distance. 
The third day she sat way off in the corner. By that 
time--it was after the collective had been going a couple 
of years--I had discovered what was wrong, so I v;ent up 


to her and said, "Aunt Molly, you must think that vre're 
all crazy nuts here, and we are. I've discovered it. 
You're on the right track." It was Aunt Molly who was 
putting labor union words to old British ballad tunes. 
She had one lovely one about "Join the CIO, join the 
CIO. . ." [singing] v;hich were simply other words for 
"Oh lay the lily lov;, lay the lily low." She was a good 
ballad singer too. She never appeared again, but by that 
time I'd found out what was wrong. I think it was in 
193"^ that we had a competition for a May Day song. And 
the words were selected by a committee and published in 
the New Masses , and then the composers were supposed to 
go to work and compose for those words. And their works 
had been gone over by another committee, and the prize 
was awarded to Aaron Copland. I think it began "Into the 
streets May first." Aaron came around, and there were 
twenty-four of us sitting around the table. We had all 
contributed, and we went right through the criticisms. 
I was chairman; so I had the privilege of speaking last. 
And everybody praised Aaron's song. They agreed it was 
the best song. When it came my turn I said, "I have to 
agree with everybody else that your song, Aaron, is the 
best here, but upon how many occasions do you suppose this 
song will be sung on a picket line at fifteen degrees 


above zero, when it's sleeting and snowing in front of 
city hall about three o'clock in the morning, or at a 
union gathering, or a march down Fifth Avenue?" He said, 
"I don't suppose very often." I said, "How do the rest 
of you feel about it." They all felt the same way. It 
had skips of a seventh in it. It had modulations all 
over the place. It required for anybody but a pretty 
good musician, just to keep his pitch, a piano accompani- 
ment, which was beautiful. So I said, "VJell, enough of 
that. Now I have something to say about my own contri- 
bution. I think it's the worst of the lot, and I gladly 
admit that it is or may be, but given a second hearing, 
couldn't just about any goddamn fool in this country 
sing, 'Join in the Chorus? '" And there was agreement 
that it could. What I'd done was to throw together some- 
thing like a kind of a mixture of a gospel song and the 
work song and a few other things and a football song. 
It came fairly near to a college football song. And it 
was the easiest thing in the world to remember. 

Well, that was the end of the collective for me. I 
don't think I went around to any more meetings, but it 
kept on for a couple of years and became more dogmatic 
and more extreme. By that time I'd discovered something 
that was much better in the way of using music socially 


than the collective ever dreamed of being, and that was 
by being invited to put three-hundred musicians in three- 
hundred settlement communities by the Roosevelt adminis- 
tration. And I've told all about that. 

Now meanwhile, to make the collective work, I had to 
work like the devil just to keep people interested and 
contributing and to see that we got in more members and 
made interesting enough meetings to have people come 
around to this old--they rented a loft for us down in 
the limbo of New York. I've forgotten vrhere, on Twelfth 
Street or Thirteenth Street near Third Avenue or something 
like that, and we had a rickety old piano. And I wrote 
for the Daily Worker - -critic isms of music. 

I was tremendously hit by the Depression, both per- 
sonally and emotionally. And to see people going up and 
down in Rolls-Royces while there were people starving and 
sleeping all night covered with snow on doorsteps. I 
think I told the story of that too. I was pretty far 
out, so I wrote under the name of Carl Sands and I've 
never admitted the soft impeachment until my authorization 
to Dick Reuss that he could mention Carl Sands for the 
Folklore Society [meeting*], and on this tape now. I 
made that in a couple of other tapes, but I have restric- 

tions on t hem. But I think it ought to go in on this tape. 
^Washington, November 1971. 


My friends, the musicologists, never knew anything about 
this activity. Some of them, if they did, didn't mention 
it. The people who knew Carl Sands knew Charles Seeger. 
The point that Reuss brought up was that he was a bit 
shocked at the tenor of some of these articles of mine 
in the Daily Worker . And I said, "Well, I've always 
claimed for years that you can't talk without there being 
an element of propaganda in it. All of science is pro- 
paganda; all of science is propaganda." He said, "For 
what?" I said, "For the belief that unlimited pursuit 
of knowledge of fact is worthwhile." And I said, "That's 
a religious belief. It has no scientific basis whatever, 
and it's led us to the point of where it's the unlimited 
pursuit of knowledge of fact that has not only endangered 
the survival of mankind by atom bombs, fission bombs, but 
by pollution of the air and soil and the water and over- 
population and a few other things. And it's all traceable 
right straight back to the sacrosanct rooms in the uni- 
versities where the unlimited pursuit of knowledge of fact 
is pursued and takes place." He was very much shocked, as 
I say. But I got a letter from him a couple of days ago 
saying that he'd come around to my point, and he was less 
hard on me than he was, but he still thought I went a 
little bit far out in some of my remarks about bourgeois 


composers and the idle rich. And I said, "VJell I did it 
definitely as an exercise in propaganda. It had its use 
at the time, and although I knew I was stretching the 
truth beyond where it could possibly be true, still it 
was the only way of getting certain things done. And I'm 
glad I did it." So we're on good terms with each other, 
and he said he v/ould soft-pedal on this in his paper on 
me. And I wrote back and said, "Don't soft-pedal." I 
said, "Say just whatever you want. Make whatever criti- 
cisms you want. I wouldn't for a moment want you to blunt 
them." So that episode should go on. Well, meanwhile I 
got into writing music for "Oh joy upon this earth to 
live and see the day, when Rockefeller senior shall up 
to me and say, 'Comrade can you spare a dime?' Oh joy 
upon this earth. . ." [singing] It ' s a round, you see. 
I wrote about sixteen of those rounds and some other things, 
and I took off Chiang Kai-shek. I wrote the Chiang Kai- 
shek one in a five-part round in five phrases for each 
part in the pentatonic scale. I made another round that 
went all through the twelve keys. I didn't expect them 
ever to be sung except by musicians for a joke, but most 
of them were simple things like the one I just sang. There 
were some other rounds written by some other composers, 
and some of them were damn good. My wife Ruth wrote a 


beautiful one to those same words. I wish I could sing 
it. The last line v;as "Comrade, comrade, comrade, com- 
rade, comrade, can you spare a dime." [singing and laugh- 
ing] Some of them were really immortal. Elie Siegmeis- 
ter's was I think the best of the lot musically, about 
the three brothers named Du Pont. "There were three 
brothers named Du Pont. Patriots are they. They make 
their money from munitions in an honest way. They love 
their country right or wrong, but when yen or lira come 
along, they always very joyfully to anyone will sell shells 
that will all armor pierce, and armor that will stop each 
shell. There were three brothers named Du Pont." [sing- 
ing and laughing] Musically that was the triumph, but 
I had one on William Randolph Hearst. I had several on 
Henry Ford. The one on Henry Ford was a double round like 
"Sumer is icumen in," and the two-part round at the bot- 
tom was just explosive noises with a voice. [noise imi- 
tations] So the main things of the collective were hi- 
larious and full of humor. 
BRIEGLEB: These were written down? 

SEEGER: Oh yes, I have the book. I'm sending Reuss a 
Xerox of it if it comes out. They were great fun. There 
was another one on Gloria Vanderbilt who was just then 
being fought over by her relatives because she had $3 


million, and the round wound up, "For she has three mil- 
lion bucks." [singing and laughing] This whole little 
episode in m.y life is an important one for showing the 
extents I will go to try to make music useful socially. 

I've spoken in previous chapters of this history 
about my efforts to do this in the Resettlement Administra- 
tion and finally in VJPA and then internationally between 
the twenty-one American republics. The place we really 
got going though was in the Resettlement, The others we 
hardly got beyond first base before we were stopped. Well 
now, that brings us to the next question you have to ask. 
BRIEGLEB: I was going to ask you hov; your visit was with 
Mantle and Hazel Hood In Hawaii last month. You flew over 
to Hawaii to visit with them, and also maybe you'd like 
to say something about your impressions of Mantle's new 
book The Ethnomusicologist which seems to have now found 
its way into print. 

SEEGER: It's been so long since I've leafed over the book 
that I have really nothing to say about it except that 
I'm awaiting with interest the reactions that it's going 
to be met with. 

I got a tremendous kick out of the two sets of semi- 
nars I've given--one at the University of Texas and the 
other at the University of Hawaii--using my latest papers 


as a base and having them read over ahead of time by the 
students so that we don't have to do any reading or lec- 
turing. We can have questions and comment and attacks 
if necessary. It's a very nice bunch out there, live as 
anything. Mantle came around to all three of my sessions, 
and it was very nice to see him again. He has a beauti- 
ful house and lovely children, a lovely wife and of course 
a beautiful place to live. What's going to happen to the 
institute. Lord only knows. I think the proper thing is, 
something has got to come from above, I'm afraid, in the 
university. And that is a complete reassessment of the 
whole performing arts end of things. And by performing 
arts I mean speech, theater, music and dance. Linguis- 
tics, physics, psychology, esthetics, anthropology, soci- 
ology and the others would be hanging around on the outside 
just as they are today, but these four should be grouped 
in a separate school or college by themselves. 

They're thinking now of doing away with the Depart- 
ment of Speech here for a very good reason. It's off in 
a little cubbyhole by itself and not connected where it 
ought to be connected. You can't get up in the theater 
without using just what a discipline in the art of the 
speech can only provide. You can't get up in the halls 
of Congress or the House of Representatives or any other 


legislative or business group without an element of thea- 
ter. And speech and theater go together there. And be- 
lieve it or not, the gestures and the stance and very of- 
ten the movement of the speaker before a podium, which is 
definitely a matter of dance, has a lot to do with what 
he puts over. A man who stays absolutely still, doesn't 
move a hand or a flick or anything else except an eyelash 
and his lips, can make a tremendous impression. But it's 
much easier for the average person to do something else 
but that, because that's almost impossible to do except 
for a few people who have just disciplined themselves to 
do it. It's a kind of dance, just as much as John Cage's 
4 Minutes and 33 Seconds is a discipline in the art of 
music. It's going to go down in history as a great ac- 
complishment. So that standing up and just delivering an 
address without moving anything but winking an eye and 
having to take a breath, or not even giving too much of 
an intimation of that, is something that can be done; but, 
as I say, not one person in a million can do it. It's a 
tour de force . Most people who lecture, who talk or give 
a speech or do anything--making music, too--there's a 
certain amount of dance in it. And they'll do it better 
if they've studied dance. 

I've already told what a ridiculous thing my music 


education was at Harvard. What I learned in those four 
years I learned by myself and from my friends and from 
people outside. I didn't learn much of anything from the 
teachers there. They had us all writing songs, and they 
never told us one single thing about speech. And as I 
look back over the songs, I find I'm giving high notes to 
syllables that you can't sing high notes comfortably on. 
Somebody could have told me. I was interested in the ac- 
companiment. Sometimes I'd write the whole accompaniment 
and put the melody in afterwards. I think that's one of 
the things that's going to have to happen here. And if 
it doesn't happen here it will happen somewhere else, and 
they'll run away with the best students. I think it might 
be a school of forensics. I don't know what you call "for- 
ensic." I must look it up in the dictionary. But the 
whole four of them--speech, theater, dance and music--are 
inextricably mixed up together all through the world, and 
deliberately so in a large part of the East and in Africa. 

One of the remarks that I made up at the Seattle 
meeting was that I regretted that so many members of the 
audience came in while a drum band was going and sat down 
and didn't move. And then my friend Mclntyre, who is a 
nonmember of the society and was a member of an important 
committee, spoke up and said, "Mr. Seeger, why did you stay 


still?" I said, "Because I've been taught to for eighty- 
years, and I can't do anything else. If I try to do any- 
thing else it's a fake." Of course, this is perfectly 
true. Oh, I can get out and pretend to dance, but I'd 
be ashamed of myself at doing it and everybody would say, 
"My God, what an awful mess!" No. I think that's one 
of the important things, and that's one of the things that 
Mantle Hood made a gesture towards already in his thought 
about the future of the institute. I don't know whether 
he mentions it in his book or not, I've forgotten. 
BRIEGLEB: He alludes to it, but he doesn't state it 

SEEGER: But it's one of the things that's going to be 
on the boards for the next ten years. I did write an 
article on music in American universities that was pub- 
lished in 1923 in the Educational Review, and that said 
that all departments of music should be renamed depart- 
ments of music and musicology. And musicology was a speech 
discipline, so I got speech in that far. And I also said 
in it that all departments of music and musicology should 
treat the other musics in the world as well as European. 
And that was pretty good for 1919 when I wrote it. Now, 
next question. 
BRIEGLEB: I wonder if you'd like to give your opinion 


on what you think the future of the Society for Ethnomu- 
sicology will be. 

SEEGER: The tendency nowadays in these societies is to 
break up. I see less tendency to amalgamate. VHaen we 
formed the Society for Ethnomusicology I wrote the consti- 
tution, and I patterned it as closely as I possibly could 
after the constitution of the American Musicological So- 
ciety with the hope that they would be able to come to- 
gether sometime. But rausicology pushed ethnomusicology 
away when we were forming the Society of Ethnomusicology, 
and within five years it was trying to woo it. It v/as 
wooing it to come together. By that time the ethnomusi- 
cologists had felt their oats, and they rightly refused 
to amalgamate. I still hope that we can get the whole 
of music studied under the term "musicology" because the 
word "ethnomusicology" is valid for an approach to music, 
but it's not valid for the name of an independent study. 

You can't study music only in its culture. You've got 
to study it in itself to know what you're talking about 
in its culture. And the thing is illogical and absurd, 
but I see no chance of amalgamating yet. It still might 
happen. You never can tell. But there is perhaps more 
of a chance that it might split up, and it might split 
up into just such a group as was making the trouble in 


Seattle about wanting the Society for Ethnomusicology to 
go into a whole lot of politiking and protest marching 
and that sort of thing, which is not the business of a 
learned society. 

How we weather the next ten years will depend very 
largely on the presidents. If we have presidents who 
have some sense of organization and can preside over the 
Council in such a way as to make the Council function as 
the constitution is designed to make it function, and to 
handle the executive hoard as simply the executive com- 
mittee of the Council, which is all it is in the present 
situation, and see that things are handled in an organi- 
zational way, we can weather the storms perfectly well. 
But if we get in some of these people v;ho are just so 
easy going that they let anything happen, it could per- 
fectly well split up and make things still worse than 
they are. You see, we have one advantage in musicology. 
If you will forget that we are split into musicology and 
ethnomusicology (but they both really are musicology), 
what we try to do in these two studies--I don't call them 
disciplines because I don't think they are yet, but they're 
studies--what we try to do in these two studies of musi- 
cology and ethnomusicology is what the students of language 
do in the dozen different disciplines that are still 


breaking up into another two dozen disciplines. There 
are physicists that can't talk to other physicists. There 
are psychologists who can't talk to other psychologists 
because they don't know the lingo, and sociologists 
are getting to be the same way. And that's one of the 
things I hope we won't have to face in music. Because 
whereas the study of the use of speech to deal with man 
is handled in the vast number of activities in the univer- 
sity from physics to religion--and there are at least a 
dozen and maybe eighteen departments (I don't know, I 
haven't stopped to count them) --in music we try to handle 
all to do with music in these two studies. And I hope we 
can keep them in these two and eventually get them all 
into one, because the more you let language split music 
up, the farther you're pushing music away from knowing 
it. You don't know music by knowing the music of any 
tribe in this earth down to the last yelp. You don't 
know music if you know everything that Bach ever wrote 
and can play it backwards. If the word "music" means 
anything it means all the music that man makes, and you'll 
find that it's quite difficult to handle all the music 
that man makes unless you run into its relation with speech, 
because it's in speech that you're saying all this. It's 
speech that makes you say a lot of the things you say. 


not music that makes you say it. You have to talk the 
way speech makes people talk or lets them talk. You 
can't talk the way a musician would talk if he could really 
talk musically, because what the musicians know can't be 
put into speech as we know it. There are no words for 
it. It's ineffable. You try to say what is communicated 
by the simplest piece of music. Well, you can talk all 
your life, and you can't finish saying the things about 
it that you can say, and then you don't know much of any- 
thing about the music itself. That is, you don't know 
the music itself. You know all the speech words about it, 
but you don't know the music itself. We could describe 
some music that we know nowadays which is then obliterated 
and nobody after the obliteration of the actual making 
of that music would ever be able to put it together again, 
as if all the records were destroyed. 

We know a tremendous lot about how Palestrina was 
performed, but I'm sure that if Palestrina heard some of 
our performances he'd run out of the room with his hands 
over his ears, saying, "For God's sake, if you're going 
to perform my music have it performed by musicians! " You 
say, "What's the matter? They're not singing in tune! 
They're not singing in time! They're phrasing it all 
wrong!" We don't know. God knows how they are playing 


that music in the sixteenth century accompanied with some 
of the instruments that they had. Now maybe on those in- 
struments the players were able to modify the pitch more 
than we think they can so as to match the singing. But 
I'm not convinced of it. You can do just so much with 
fingers on the holes of instruments and the embouchure 
and just so much with fingers in different places on the 
string. There are limits. So I ' d like to see the study 
of music kept in one overall study and make it a discipline, 
not something you just waltz around in, taking a little 
smattering here and a little smattering there without any 
sound theory, or else going off on a theoretical binge 
without any knowledge of any particulars. 

Well, when it comes to the Seattle meeting, my paper 
and the paper of McAllester and Wachsmann, which will come 
out in the September number of Ethnomusicology (I97I), 
will be a little bit more coherent and meaningful. 
BRIEGLEB: It goes without saying that we're all going to 
miss not having you at UCLA; just seeing you in the hall- 
way and having you in the seminar, of course, has been a 
really unique experience for all of us. So now that you 
are moving to Connecticut, to the East Coast, I can't help 
but ask what plans for the future you have for your own 
research and for what you'll do with your time after you 


leave Los Angeles. 

SEEGER: I have found that a drastic move is a very good 
thing for me. All the moves I've made that put me in a 
moving van from one part of the country to another have 
heen fortunate. I think I've spent ray time here. Ori- 
ginally it was planned to be just five years, but Mantle 
and I have added one year and one year and one year until 
finally it's gotten to be ten, and I think enough is enough. 
If I can only get that volume of collected papers* out of 
the way before too long I can start in a new life in the 
East where I will be nearer my children and nearer a 
whole lot of other people that I want to see more of. It's 
not that I can't get more out of the institute here and 
that it doesn't make me sad to leave the people who are 
here, but I'm ready for a move. 

Let me see, I spent six years in Berkeley and twelve 
years in New York and eighteen years in Washington, and 
I've been in California for fifteen years . I think it's 
time for me to move on. I shall have seminars in various 
universities, of the type that I just referred to, once 
a month or so, and keep in touch with the young people, 
because it's interesting that the reception of my work 
has been very distant by my colleagues. They just say, 
*To be published by the University of California Press. 


"Yes, he's a good man^ he's a good man, yes." But they 
don't take much note of my papers. The people in my chil- 
dren's generation--Mantle Hood and Wachsmann and the 
others --they read them, and they give me some very nice 
comebacks, but they are very gentle and upon occasion, 
such as Mantle's last suggestion that I put hack into my 
map of the field of musicology a description of music 
that would equal the description of speech — very few of 
them as hefty as that. But it's from the children, my 
grandchildren, young people of my grandchildren's level 
who are about [the age of] the graduate students here 
that I get the most from. They'll stand right up to me 
and say, "Mr. Seeger, I think it was unfair of you to 
say that in the seminar this afternoon." Ah, fine, now 
we can go at it. "Mr. Seeger, I think you're completely 
wrong there. Now just listen to this." Then we get some- 
where, and it stimulates me enormously. So I shall miss 
them, but I'll find them in the East probably just as 
ebullient. Then I'll be nearer my children, my grand- 
children that I'd like to see something of, and nearer 
Europe where I may get around. I don't get to Europe 
very often from here. I will from the East. 
BRIEGLEB: Do you still plan to put together this con- 
ference on the Melograph in Europe? 


SEEGER: I'm willing to cooperate v;lth somebody who will 
be the sparkplug in that project, but I've got too many 
other things to do. If there's not enough general interest 
to do, I think, the only thing that is to be done, and 
that is to get an international group together, then I'll 
make one last effort to persuade a certain foundation to 
get the preliminary conversation going. I've put it off 
the last year or two because of the nature of our dis- 
coveries here with the Melograph, but also because I have 
wind of a conference to which I'll be invited, into which 
I could Introduce this topic very fortunately. That's 
supposed to take place in about a year. So I think I'll 
try to make one effort there, but it's a matter of writ- 
ing a lot of letters and talking to a lot of people, and 
I've got too many other things to do. 

The other thing I have to do is to take the stuff 
of the papers that I've written so far and to reorganize 
it in the form of the book I've planned all my life, the 
Principia Musicologica . I'm going to start in v/ith it 
in the fall. I have to write that mostly out of my own 
head, and I have the Yale library only an hour and a 
quarter away. I have New York City only an hour and a 
half away. Brown is just across the state, and VJesleyan 
is too. So I won't be in the sticks. I'm going to see 


Sam Chianis up at Binghamton and Lois Anderson out 
in VJisconsin. They might even have me back here some- 



Acta Musicologica (journal) 

Adams, George P. 

Adler, Guido 

Adomian, Lan 

Agriculture, U.S. Department of 
Farm Security Collection 

American Anthropological Association 

American Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science 

American Ballads and Folk Songs (Lomax) 

American Council of Education 

American Council of Learned Societies 

Committee on Music and Musicology 

American Folklore Society 
American Historical Association 
American Library of Musicology 
American Musicological Society 

American Rubber Export Company 
American Society for Comparative 

Anderson, Lois 
Anderson, Victor C. 
Anthropology of Mus ic (Merriam) 
Armes, VJilliam Dalton 
Army, U.S. 
Army Song Book 
Asch, Moses 
Atlantic Monthly (magazine) 

Bach, Johann Sebastian 

Baker, George Pierce 
Ballantine, Edward 
"Barbara Allen" (folksong) 
Barber, Samuel 
Bartholomev;, Marshall 
Bartok, Bela 

226, 271, 398 

110, 152 



240-241, 280, 282-283 






























361-363, 368. 369, 
382, 395, 438 
361, 367, 369, 370- 
380, 382 
404, 479 

228, 475 

206, 221, 223-228, 

272, 273, 274, 352, 
355-357, 369, 370, 

374, 375, 376, 377, 

385, 388, 389-391, 

397, 398, 427, 446- 
474, 488 

234, 235-236, 238, 

429, 431, 434, 435 


104, 276 

44, 96, 99, 108, 125, 


34, 122 

50, 63 



164, 305 

417-418, 462 


Batista y Zaldi^ar, Pulgencio 
Baud-Bovie, Samuel 
Bayard, Samuel P. 
Beardsley, Aubrey 
Beethoven, Ludwig von 
Beethoven Association, New York 
Benton, Rita 
Benton, Thomas Hart 

Berg, Alban 
Berkeley, California 
Berlin, Germany 
Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv 

Demonstration Sammlung 
Bernard, Pierre 
Bernhardt, Sarah 
Berrien, William 
Bibb, Frank 
Blitzstein, Marc 

The Cradle Will Rock 
Bloch, Ernest 
Boggs, Doc 

Bohemian Club, San Francisco 
Boletm Latino - Americano de Musica 

Bolinas, California 
Boston Pops Orchestra 
Boston Symphony Orchestra 
Botkin, Benjamin Albert 
Bowden, George 
Braden, Spruille 
Brahms, Johannes 

Brearly School, New York 
Brecht, Bertolt 
Bright, William 0. 
Broadcast Music, Incorporated 
Bronson, Bertrand H. 
Brooks, Van Wyck 
Brown, Bob 
Bruckner, Anton 
Buhlig, Richard 
Bukofzer, Manfred 
Bush, Helen 


"The Candidate's a Dodger" (folksong) 

Carnegie Corporation 





108, 322 

225, 272 


204-206, 222, 259, 260, 



88, 127 

64, 65, 116 

189, 232, 237 

232, 4l4 

164, 192-196, 198 

34-35, 160 

275, 294, 300 


212, 258-259, 475 

213, 258-259, 475 



63, 85, 86 



39, 42, 51 

254, 270, 278, 286 



30. 96, 108, 125 




33-34, 49 




373, 393, 451, 453 


134, 136, 242 
234, 295 


Cebrlan, Don Juan 

Chase^, Gilbert 

Cherrylake, Florida 

Chiang Kai-shek 

Chianis, Sam 

Child, Francis J. 

Chinese Music Society, New York 

Chopin, Frederic 

Chrysander, Karl 

Civilian Conservation Corps 

Clapp, Philip Greeley 

Clark, Evans 

Clarke, Eric 

Clarkstown Country Club, Nyack, 

New York 
"The Colleagues" 
Collier, Nina 
Cologne, Germany 
Cologne Municipal Opera 
Communist Party 
Composers' Collective 

Conference on Inter-American Relations 

in the Field of Music 

Congressional Record 
Coon Creek Girls 
Copland, Aaron 
Correa de Azevedo, Luis Heitor 

Cory, Herbert E. 

Coughlin, Charles E. 
Cowell, Harry 
V Cowell, Henry 

Cowell, Sidney (Robertson) 

Cuernavaca, Mexico 

The Cultural Approach to History 

(ed. Ware) 
Cutler School, New York 
Cuvelier, Marcel 

Daily Worker (newspaper) 





464, 496 






50, 52 

275, 294 


165, 192, 


375, 385 


67-68, 87 


214, 216, 


212, 218, 

219, 242, 

258, 470 

274, 294 


262, 265 

220, 311, 476, 477 

300-301, 311, 331, 333, 

335, 3^5, 347 

88-89, 109, 113, 121, 

129, 131, 152 


99-100. 101-102 

loo-lo4, 106-107, 123, 

124, 126, 133, 166, 167, 

168, 189, 202, 207-208, 

209-210, 222, 228. 232, 
237, 243, 302, 304-305, 

311, 368, 470 

244-245, 255 
53, 61 


335, 336 

214-215, 479, ^80 


Damrosch, Frank 

Damrosch, Leopold 
Damrosch, Walter 
Day, Charles Russell 
Debs, Eugene V. 
Debussy, Claude 


1. Pagodes 

3. Jardins sous la plule 


Pelleas et Mellsande 
De Coppet, Edmond J. 
De Forest, May 
Dent, Edward 
Per Frelschiitz (Weber) 
Dickinson, George Sherman 

Die Musik Forschung (journal) 

Divine Comedy (Dante) 

Don Juan (Byron) 

Dornbush, Adrian 

Doro, Marie 

Dufay, Guillaume 

Dukes, Paul 

Dunham, Lucia 

Dunlop, Miss 

Duran, Gustavo 

Dusenberry, Emma 
Earhart, Will 

Edson, Dr . 
Edson, Mrs.' 

Educational Review (journal) 
Eisenhower, Dwight D. 
Eisler, Hanns 

Eitner, Robert 

Encyclopedia of Social Sciences 
Engel, Carl 
England, Nick 
English and Scottish Popular Ballads 

Erskine, John 
Espinosa, Guillermo 

161, 162, 164, 170, 
173, 177, 180, 183, 

185, 198, 199, 202, 





30, 38, 42, 97, 199 








226, 273, 397 


357-360, 363, 376, 379, 

380, 385, 447 




239, 255, 262 






299-301, 315, 327-328, 

345, 347 

244-245, 255 



79, 84 

153, 185, 487 


214-215, 216, 292, 469 




186, 225, 243, 361 
453, 456 


183, 185, 202 



Ethnological and Anthropological 

The Ethnomusicologist (Hood) 
Ethnomusicology (journal) 
Etude (magazine) 
Evans, Luther 

Faust (Goethe) 

Federal Works Agency 

Fielitz, Alexander von 

First International Congress of 

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 
Plonzaley Quartet 
Folk Arts Committee 
Foote, George 

Music (Roberts) 

Ford 5 Henry 

Form in Primitive 

Foster, Stephen 

4 Minutes and 33 Seconds (Cage) 

Garden, Mary 

Garner, John Nance 

Gatti-Casazza, Giulio 

Gayley, Charles Mills 

Gercke, Wilhelm 

Gesellschaft zur Erforschung der 

Musik des Orients 
Ginastera, Alberto 
Gluck, Alma 
Goetschius, Percy 
The Golden Bough (Frazer) 
Gordon, Robert W. 
Gorer, Jeffrey 
Grammar of Science (Pearson) 
Greenbelt, Maryland 
Grove' s Dictionary of Music and 

Gue rn s e y , Mr . 



375, 492 
281, 282 



272, 274 




33-34, 38, 49, 53, 56, 

63-64, 71-72, 73, 74, 

76, 96, 143 







133, 149, 151 


233, 236, 237, 238, 393 



173, 208 





241, 258 


Hall, Mr. 

Halpert, Herbert 

Hand, VJ ay land D. 

Handbook of Latin - American Studies 

Hanson, Hov/ard 

Harmonic Structure and Elem.entary 

ComposTtion (Seeger and Stricklen) 

86, 98 


Harrell, Max 
Harris, Roy- 
Harvard Club, New York 
Harvard University, Cambridge, 

Apthorp House 

Glee Club 

Gore Hall 

Holden Chapel 

Music, Department of 

Signet Society 
Haufrecht, Herbert 
Haydon, Glen 

Hearst, Phoebe (Apperson) 
Hearst, William Randolph 
Heilman, William 
Henderson, William James 
Herskovits, Melville Jean 
Herzog, George 

Higgins, Jon 

Hill, Richard S. 

Hindemith, Paul 

Hinrichsen' s Musical Year Book 

History of Music (Pratt) 

Hitler, Adolf 

Hollister family 

Holmes, Samuel Jackson 

Hood, Hazel 

Hood, Mantle 

Horace Mann School, New York 
Hornbostel, Erich Moritz von 

Housing Administration, U.S. 
Howard, John Galen 
Hutchinson, William R. 
Huxley, Julian 

Indiana University, Bloomington 
Indy, Vincent d' 

Institute of Comparative Musicology 
Institute of Ethnomusicology 

see . University of California, Los 




23, 24, 29, 32, 65-66, 

109, 111, 139, 143, 208, 

468, 486 

47, 84 





45-46, 54 

242, 254 

105, 133, 357, 358, 

361, 376, 379, 380 





228, 233-234, 235, 238, 

386, 414, 418 


353, 354 




232, 233, 292 




349-350, 372, 3&r, 393, 

398, 413, 415-416, 4l8- 

421, 423, 431, 433, 437, 

439^ 442, 443, 483, 484, 

487, 493, 494 


189, 230-237, 413, 417, 





326-331, 345 



232, 236 


Institute of Life Extension, New York 
Institute of Musical Art, New York 

Inter-American Ethnomusicological 

Inter-American Institute for Musical 

Inter-American Institute of Music 

International Association of Music 


Composers ' 
Folk Music 


International Musicological Society 

International Music Society 
see . Union Musicologique 
International Organization of Standards 
International Workers of the World 
Introduction to Muslcology (Haydon) 
Ives, Burl 
Ives, Charles 
Ixtaccihuatl, Mexico 

Jackson, George Pullen 
Jackson, "Aunt" Molly 

James, Mrs. 

Jeppesen, Knud 

Jeunesse Musicale 

Johnson, Alvin S. 

Johnson, Lyndon B. 

Journal of American Folklore 

Journal of Ethnomusicology 

Juilliard, Augustus D. 

Juilliard School of Music, New York 

Kahn, Otto 

Karl Eugen (Duke of Wurttemberg) 

Keats, John 

Kerman, Joseph 

Kern, Emil 

Kinkeldey, Otto 

Kneisel, Franz 


93. 161, 162, 170-171, 

177, 179. 181-182, 184, 

185, 198, 199, 200, 202, 

203, 207 


353, 354 

177, 213 

332, 334, 338, 389, 456 

332, 334, 335, 352, 372, 

373, 374, 413, 453 


114, 121, 130-131, 468 





461, 470 

218-219, 220, 464, 476- 



335, 372-373, 374, 453 

332, 334-335 

183, 203, 230 



375, 492 

183, 185 

183, 202 



22, 32, 61 



184, 186, 188-190, 206, 
222, 224, 225, 357, 36I, 

168, 173 


Knopoff, Leon 
Kolinskij Mieczyslaw 
Krader, Barbara 
Kroeber, A. L. 
Kunst, Jaap 
Kurtz, William 

Lachmann, Robert 
Laheri, Sahat 
Lang, Paul Henry 
Lange, Francisco Curt 
Lawler, Vanett 

League of Composers 

Leland, VJaldo G. 

Les Contes d' Hoffman (Offenbach) 

Lewis, Clarence I. 

Lewis, Leo 

Library of Congress 

Archive of American Folk Song 
Lieberraan, Fred 
List, George 
Lleras-Camargo, Alberto 
Loewenberg, Jacob 
Lohse, Otto 
Lomax, Alan 
Lomax, John 

Longworth, Alice Roosevelt 
Longworth, Nicholas 
Lowie, Robert H. 
Lewinsky, Edv/ard 
Lunarcharski, Anatoli V. 
Lunsford, Bascom Lamar 

McAllester, David 

McColl, Ewan 
Macdonald, Flora 
Macdonald, Jess 
Macdonald, Ma 
MacDowell Colony 
Mclntyre, Ken 
Macleod, Fiona 


90, 152, 386 

372, 393, 413, 4l6 

230, 232, 233, 235-236 

373, 453 

299, 301, 302, 304, 308, 

309, 311, 312-316, 319, 

324-325, 328-329, 331, 

343, 347 


282, 361 


110, 152 

184, 186 

152, 184, 186, 242, 243, 

270, 274, 277-278, 279, 

280-282, 292, 302, 322, 

354, 366, 460 

243, 270, 277 



347, 348, 349 


67, 72 

243, 476 

243, 244, 271, 461 



90, 152, 386 




375, 386-387, 401, 452, 




155, 157, 158, 159 



449, 486 



Macmillan Company 

McQueen^ Mr. 

Madame Butterfly (Puccini) 
Magnes, Judah 
Mahler^ Gustav 
Manger, William 
Manuel, Roland 

Marin^i Padre 

Marks (Edward B.) Music Corporation 

Marx, Karl 

Materialist Conception of History 

Maybeck, Bernard 

Mayfarth, Mr. " 

Mei Lan-fang 
Mendel, Arthur 
Mendelssohn, Felix von 
Merida (ship) 
Merriam, Alan 

Merriman, Roger Bigelow 

Metropolitan Music School, New York 

Metropolitan Opera, New York 


Mexico City, Mexico 

Mirandola, Pico della 

Modern Music (journal) 

Moody, Helen VJills 

Moore, Earl 

Moore, Michael 

Mo Ti 

Mount St. Helena, California 

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 

Muck, Karl 

Munich, Germany 

Murray, Gilbert 

Musical America 

Musical Courier 



Musical Quarterly 

Music Educators' National Conference 

Music Teachers' National Association 
Music Vanguard (magazine) 
Muslk des Orient (recording^ 
Musik des Orients fLachmann) 
Mysticism and Logic (Russell) 

243, 363-364 



38, 42 

297, 347 

335, 338, 340 



140, 216, 471-472 



265, 270 
























> 386-387, 388, 401, 

77, 180 

21-22, 23, 47, 318 



42, 71 


, 184, 185, 441 
, 274, 298, 309, 
, 356 


Naples, Italy- 
National Broadcasting Company 
National Music Council 
National Resources Board, U.S. 
National Science Foundation, U.S. 
Nazimova, Alia 
New Masses (magazine) 
New School for Social Research, New 

New York Musicological Society 

see , American Musicological Society 
New York Public Library 
New York Times (newspaper) 
Novembre Gruppe, Berlin 
Noyes, Edward 
Noyes, George R. 
The Nuclear Theme as a Determ.inant of 

Patet in Javanese Music (Hood) 

Office of Inter-American Affairs, 
Organization of American States 

Inter-American Music Council 

Pan-American Union 


Pan-American Union, Music Division 
Ornstein, Leo 
Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck) 
Our Singing Country (Lomax) 
Oxford History of Music 

Page brothers 
Palestrina, da 
Pan-American Union 

see . Organization of American 
Parker, Carleton H. 
Parmelee family 
Patterson, New York 
Perkins, Max 
Peron, Juan Domingo 
Perry, Nina 
Perry, Ralph Barton 
Peter Bell the Third (Shelley) 
Petran, Laurence A. 







219, 477 

183, 202, 203-205, 228, 

230, 232, 260 





295, 305 

321, 326, 332, 345, 349 

348, 350-351 

275, 279, 282, 294-299, 
301, 304, 305, 306, 308, 
314-315, 318-319, 320- 

322, 326, 327, 330, 331, 
343, 344, 345-346, 347, 

349, 361, 406 
282, 297 



97, 108, 491 

113-115, 118, 119 


137-138, 151 


312, 313 






Petrlllo, James C. 
Piggott, F. T. 
Plllsbury, Dorothy 
Pinehurstj North Carolina 
Plimpton, George 
Pollock, Charles 
Pope, Arthur U. 
Popocatepetl, Mexico 
Pratt, Waldo Selden 
The Prophet (magazine) 
Puebla, Mexico 
Pulitzer, Joseph 

Radical Club, San Francisco 


Ravel, Maurice 

"Red River Valley" (folksong) 

Reger, Max 

Research Manufacturing Corporation 

Resettlement Administration, U.S. 

Photographic Division 

Recreation Division 
Special Skills Division 

Reuss, Richard 

Revista Musical Chilena (journal) 

Rhodes, Willard 

Richardson, Alfred M. 

Rieber, Charles 

Roberts, Helen 

Robinson, Gertrude 
Rockefeller, John D. 
Rockefeller, Nelson 
Roosevelt, Eleanor 
Roosevelt, Franklin D. 

Rowe, Leo S. 
Royal Music Association 
Royce, Edv;ard 
Rudhyar, Dane 
Ruggles, Carl 




121, 125, 128 

154. 157, 159, 241 


239, 260 

111, 127 


184, 186, 441 



121, 130 


30, 199 




239-241, 242, 244, 255, 

256, 260, 261, 265, 270, 

275, 279, 282-283, 285, 

287, 289-290, 293, 304, 

310, 483 



239, 241, 242, 253, 260 

467-468, 479-480, 482 


375, 386-387 



227, 233-235, 238, 368, 

400, 475 

442, 443 


295, 305, 306 

254, 261, 264 

217, 240-241, 264, 279, 

281, 283, 289, 290, 306 

282, 295, 314 

50, 63 


166, 167, 168, 175, 177- 

178, 204, 208, 222 



Russell J Bertrand I3O-I3I, 471-472 

Russickj Mr. IO5 

Ryder, Arthur VJilliam I92 

Sachs, Curt 233, 355, 4l4 

Salome (VJilde) 46 

Salvation Me 11 (Sheldon) 49. 74 

Salzedo, Carlos I60 
Sands, Carl (pseud, of Charles Seeger) 479-480 

San Francisco, California 120-121 

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra 121, 128 

Santa Cruz, Domingo 464 

Satie, Erik 38, 44, 199 

Sawyer, Mildred 77-78 

Schillinger, Joseph I88, 227, 228 

Schindler, Kurt 76 

Schirmer (G.), Inc. 76, l84, 3OI 

Schmidt, Herr 66-67 

Schoenberg, Arnold 97, 107, 121, 125, I99, 

215, 217 

6 kleine Klavierstucke , op. I9 100 

_3 Klavierstucke , op. Il 100 

Schubert, Franz 208 

Schumann, Robert 125 

Schumann-Heink, Ernestine 96-97 

Schiinemann, Georg 233 

Scott, Cyril l64 

Scriabin, Alexander 30, 38, 97, 121, 125 

Preludes, op. 74 100 

Seashore, Carl 130 

Seeg, Gebardns von . 2 

Seeger, Alan 4, 9-10, 11, l4. 20-21, 

22, 30, 31-32, 45, 47, 
54, 57, 59, 60 

Seeger, Barbara 460 
Seeger, Charles Louis 

Derdra , 128 

"Join in the Chorus" 478 

Queen' s Masque 128 

The Shadowy Waters overture 51, 63 

"Music and Government: A Field 272 

for an Applied Musicology" 

"Music and Musicology" 368 
"Music and Musicology in the New 368 

"Music in the American University" 153 


Seeger^ Charles Louis 
Writings [cont'd]: 

"Systematic and Historical Orien- 
tations in Musicology" 
Systematic Musicology 
Tradition and Experiment In Mu - 
sical Composition in t"He 
Western World" 
Seeger, Charles Louis (father) 

Seeger, Charles Louis f grandfather) 
Seeger, Charles Louis (son) 

Seeger, Constance de Clyver (Edson) 

Seeger, Elizabeth 

Seeger, Elsie Simmons (Adams) 

Seeger, Georg von 

Seeger, John 

Seeger, Karl Ludwig 

Seeger, Margaret Dickinson 

Seeger, Margaret "Peggy" 

Seeger, Michael 

Seeger, Penelope 

Seeger, Peter 

^/Seeger, Ruth (Crawford) 

"Chinaman Laundryman" 
String Quartet , 1931 

Seeger and Guernsey Company 

Severac, Deodat de 

Seward, Samuel S. 

The Shadowy Waters (Yeats) 

Shahn, Ben 

Sheldon, Edward Brewster "Ned" 



1, 2-6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 

13, 16, 17-19, 21, 23, 

27, 28, 29, 48-50, 55, 

56, 57, 58. 79, 82, ll6, 

137-138, l44, 191 

1, 2 

86, 87, 163, 431-432, 

457, 459 

78-79, 80-82, 83, 134, 

137, 144, 151, 158, 161, 

162, 163, 165, 174, 175, 

177, 183, 237 

5, 9-10, 11, 15, 22, 54, 

56-57, 60, 79-80, 137, 

144, 151 

3-6, 8-9, 11, 12, 13, 

16, 18, 20, 23, 25-27, 

29, 54-56, 57, 60, 79- 

80, 82, 137, 144, 151 


126, 457, 459 



74, 460, 464-465 

460, 462, 464, 465 


144, 157, 163, 457-459 

168-169, 174-176, 187, 

189, 201, 202, 203, 209- 

212, 215, 220, 242, 271, 

343, 406, 412, 427, 460, 

475, 481 







33-35, 45, 49, 73, 74, 



Shelley, Percy Bysshe 

Siegmeister, Elle 

The Silverado Squatters (Stevenson) 

Smijers, Albert 

Smith, Carleton Sprague 

Society for Ethnomusicology 

Soco Gap Square Dance Team 
Sokolov, Nikola 
Sonneck, 0. G. 

Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc. 
Spaatz, Carl 
Spackford, Charles 
Spalding, VJalter R. 
Spivacke, Harold 

Stalin, Josef 
Standard Oil Company 
State Department, U.S. 

Staten Island, New York 

Steele, Pete 

Sternsches Konservatorium, Berlin 

Stokowski, Leopold 

Strauss, Richard 

Tod und Verklarung 
Stravinsky, Igor 

Le Sacre du printemps 
Stricklen, Edv;ard 
Strunk, Oliver 

Studies in Musicology (festschrift) 
Stylus, Cambridge, Massachusetts 
Sur le Pont d 'Avignon (folksong) 
Susillo, Hardja 
Sweesy, Lauretta V. 
Sweet, Reginald 

Taft, William 

Taneyev, Sergey Ivanovich 

Taylor, Davidson 

Teggart, Frederick 

Theremin, Leo 

Thomas, Jean 

Thompson, Col.' 

Thompson, Randall 
Thomson, Charles 

19, 32, 61, 126 
217, 482 


271, 275, 295, 300, 305 

352, 376-377, 385, 387, 

389, 391, 396-397, 425, 

te, 449, 456, 488-489 

449-451, 455, 489 

262, 263 

261, 265, 266, 267 

184, 186 




38, 49, 51-52, 139 

223, 236, 275, 276, 295, 

297, 395, 446, 474 

52, 292 

256, 274, 275, 294-295, 
343, 361 
4, 16, 241 



38. 42, 46, 66 

97, 100, 121, 125 


86, 98, 101 

361, 371, 376, 379, 390 






33-34, 38, 49, 50-51, 

53, 56, 63-64, 116 




109, 118, 152 





Thomson, Virgil 
Tolraarij Richard Chace 
Torrefranca, Fausto 

Townsend, Ms. 

Trask, Adeline 

Tres Marias, Mexico 

The Trumpeter' s Serenade (composition) 

Trallmoblle Company 

Tugwell, Rexford 

Tulane University, New Orleans, La. 

Union Muslcologlque 

United Nations 

Inter-American Music Council 
International Music Council 

United National Educational, Social, 
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 

University of California 
University of California, Berkeley 

Administration Building 

Anthropology, Department of 

Boalt Hall 

Daily Californian 

Greek Theatre 

"Half-Hours of Music" 

Hearst Mining Building 

Music and Drama, Committee for 

Music, Department of 

University Recitals 

Wheeler Hall 
University of California, Los Angeles 

Center for the Study of Comparative 
Folklore and Mythology 

Institute of Ethnomusicology 

Speech, Department of 
University of California Press 
University of Chile 

Valiant, Margaret 
Van Aalst, J. A. 


335, 339 






239, 255, 257, 293 























326, 328, 352 

344, 346 

333, 334, 336-338, 

345, 349-350, 352- 
354, 372 

322, 326, 330, 331, 
335-336, 340, 342, 
349, 350 


89, 92, 99, 101, 102, 
113, 124, 125, 128, 
135, 149, 152, 162, 
181, 182, 244 

122, 123 

92, 95, 103, 129, 

153, 211 
113, 120, 123 

418, 425 

405-406, 419, 421-422 




242, 247-253, 259, 280 


Vanderbllt, Gloria 
Varese, Edgar 
Victoria, Tomas Luis de 
Villa-Lobos, Heitor 
Vinson, Senator 

Wachsmann, Eva 
Wachsmann, Klaus 
Wagner, Richard 

Per Ring des Nibelungen 
Das Rheingold 


Tristan und Isolde 
Walton, Blanche W. 

Walton, Marion 

Warburg, Felix 

"The Wayfaring Stranger" (folksong) 

Webb, Beatrice 

Webb, Sidney 

Webern, Anton von 

Wedge, George 

Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn, 

Wheeler, Benjamin Ide 

Wheelocic, John Hall 

White, Helen 

Whiting, Arthur 

Whitman, Walt 

Wiesner, Jerome B. 

Wilson, Woodrow 

Wolf, Johannes 

Wolle, John Frederick 

Wolpe, Stefan 

Workers Song Book 

Works Projects Administration 

Federal Music Project 

Federal Theatre Project 

Federal Writers' Project 

Historical Records Survey 
The World of Music (UN publication) 
■"^The World of the Mind" (radio program) 


168, 177, 222 



255, 281 


422-425, 455, 492, 494 

11, 12, 30, 181 

11, 71, 75, 163 




166, 168, 169, 175, 176, 

177, 186, 189-190. 221- 

222, 224, 226, 228 


150-151, 183, 232, 236 






234. 388 

82-83, 132, 149-150 

33-34, 49, 56, 63-64, 

66. 73, 74, 76, 116, 

118, 161, 166 

330, 331 





92, 95 



241, 254, 259, 261, 265- 

267, 270, 276, 277, 281, 

282, 285-287, 289-290, 

304, 483 

260, 261, 265, 270, 280, 

282, 289, 295 

258-259, 270, 476 


279, 281, 289 




Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 235 

Institute of Human Relations 234 

Yale Glee Club l64, 305 

Yasser, Joseph I88, 227, 228 

Medieval Quartal Harmony 228 

A Theory of Evolving Tonality I88, 475 

Zeitschrift fiir Vergleichende Musik - 233-236 
wissenschaft (journal) 


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